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Sydney: sun, surf and shopping. All that was missing was the sex.
Sienna smiled as she crossed the beach, the soles of her feet tingling on the hot sand. Beautiful bodies decorated the shore and she cruised through them, winding her way back up to the footpath. Oh, yeah. If she ever went to a doctor again this would be the only prescription she'd pay attention to. One week of pure holidaypreparation time before her big adventure. Her first week where no one knew about her health or her historythe fresh beginning she'd been hanging out half her life for.
She paused to let a couple stroll by in front of her. Tried not to envy the way the woman oh-so-casually wore her teeny tiny triangles of materialaka her bikini. Crimson-red with shoestring straps, it revealed more than it concealed and she had both the body and boldness to wear it. Sienna didn't have either. She didn't want the looks, the ill-concealed curiosity or pity. She didn't want the speculation full stop. Hence her throat-high topeven though it did cling and her miniskirt was more on the mini than the skirt side. And sure she'd spotted the odd sideways glance her way from a couple of men. As usual she'd shied away from them. She could never show her cleavage the way that woman did. Irritation increased her pace and she lectured her wavering confidencemust improve as-sertiveness quotient! How was she ever going to tick her way through her list of 'must achieve' activities if she couldn't even hold a stranger's gaze for more than a split second? How was that 'living in the moment'her new motto?
Suddenly touched by melancholy she crossed the street, moving away from the beach and into the pub, club and café scene. She needed to buck upwasn't it her New Year's resolution to live life to the max? Take no prisoners? Maybe she'd go dancing with the girls she'd met at the hostel the previous night. Full of adventure and fun, they'd be able to teach her a few tricks. At least she could hang on for the ride and watch. But that was what she was sick ofbeing the one on the sidelines, unable to participate because she wasn't allowed. Well, now she was allowed. And there was no one here to tell her she couldn't, wouldn't or shouldn't. But nor was there anyone to tell her she could, would or should either. She wished Lucy were here, her crazy friend who had all the gumption and the heart as well. The person who'd shown her some fun in spite of the restrictions all those years. But she'd had to come away aloneneeding to prove to herself that she could do it. Because then she'd truly believe it and could insist others recognise it too.
She glanced at her watch. A bit after three p.m., the lunch crowd had moved on and everyone was back at workexcept the tourists, travellers and holiday-makers like her. The restaurant and club a couple of blocks down from the hostel had its doors wide opencirculating air on the steamy Sydney day when the humidity was high and the thunderstorm approaching. She hoped it would happen soon; she wasn't used to the hard-to-breathe air.
Then she heard it. Boom, boom, hiss, boom, boom, hissthe unmistakable strike of stick on drum and cymbal. It stopped and then started again. Then she heard the twang of a rough chord on an electric guitar followed by a disembodied male voice. 'One, one. Two, t-t-t-two.'
Suddenly she felt right at home, right at ease, and her legs just walked her in thereright into the open bar that was closed for business. To where the band was onstage and the rehearsal was happening. Four guys were up there, dressed in shorts and tees and the lead singer had the skinny boy star look and mandatory crazy hair. She slipped in the back, enjoying the breeze from the fans, watched the drummer with envy, her fingers itching.
'I'm sorry, you can't stay here. The bar's not open yet.'
Reluctantly she dragged her gaze from the drum kit to the man who'd walked up beside her. She blinked. Once. Again. Then rapidly a couple more times to try to make her silly eyes focus. My God. So men like that really did exist? The kind that would have every woman in the vicinity immediately doing their pelvic floor exercises because they knew, absolutely knew, that keeping up with him in the bedroom would require some spectacular performance.
Sienna's whole body tensedespecially her pelvic floor.
Steely grey eyes with a smidgen of green regarded her. They were surrounded by dark lashes and topped with strongly curved dark brows. Great combination. But it was his mouth that had her flexingthe fullest, most sensual lips she'd ever seen on a man.
She blinked again and broke the contact. Looked down and in that speck of time took in his exhilarating appearance once more. He wore designer board shorts with artless ease and a close-fitting cotton tee shirt. His dark hair was clipped short and his sandals were of soft-looking leather. Details burnt into her brain in rapid-fire succession. But it was his hands she lingered on as they rested on his arms folded across his chest. Large palms and long fingershe'd have no trouble reaching a couple of octaves on the piano. Nails so neat you'd think they'd been professionally manicured.
He must be gay.
She saw his glance slip over her as he paused too. Saw the hint of censure cloud into something else. The green light grew. The go-ahead signal. Attraction.
She snuck in a breath and remembered what she'd been going to ask. 'You mind if I watch a while?' Her voice seemed to have lost all power. It was some pathetic trickle of its usual timbre and the way he was looking at her, she'd lose all ability to speak or think at all. Man, he was hot.
He kept staring at her and she stared back, intrigued to see the green in his eyes intensify. His stance, with his arms banded across his chest, showed off the breadth of his shoulders and emphasised his masculine triangular shape. His shirt pulled at the seams slightly, struggling to contain the breadth of the bone and muscle beneath. Finally he opened his mouth to answer but the singer got in first.
'It's OK, Rhys. She can stay. Can you bring in the other amp?' The singer seemed to have forgotten about the microphone and shoutedthe result so loud Sienna jumped. So did Mr Handsome Stranger.
Rhys. He jerked his head to the stage, looking as if he'd just remembered where he was. She saw a glance flicker between all the men, had no problem interpreting it. That was OK. She'd been in and around bands long enough to know what they thought. Groupie? Not today. Well, certainly not for any of the musicians. But Rhys their roadie? My God. She'd never seen a roadie like that before.
She watched as he walked behind the bar to wherever to get the missing equipment.
The singer smiled at her. 'Come sit and watch for a while if you want.'
She managed to work her dry mouth into some sort of smile and walked to a table near the frontone that gave a good view through to the back of the bar. She sat, stretched her legs out and let the air circulate around her, resting her body from the heat of the sun. She could cool down here for a moment and let the rhythm of the drum soothe her disgruntled soul.
Two minutes later Rhys came back in carrying a large black case. He strode past her to put it on the stage. Gave the singer a mock salute and returned to the bar. She honed in on his every movement. So much for cooling offjust looking at him made her sweat.
Across the tables, he stood level with her, looming in the corner of her eye. She tried to concentrate on the musicians but couldn't help her sidelong observance of Mr Utterly Attractive. He wasn't even trying to hide the fact he was looking at her. He stood with his back against the bar, arms across his chest again, and coolly watched her watching the band.
She forced herself to focus on the music. Succeeded for a timewell, her eyes at any rate. Her brain was still assessing his magnificent features. She caught movement to the side and no way could she not look. He'd turned to reach across the bar behind him. She watched, forgetting the musicians entirely as he stretched his body out. Under that tee was a flat wall of muscle. A perfect physical specimen. Sienna, like most people, could appreciate beauty. And his was breathtaking.
He turned back, bottle of water in his hand, and speared her gaze. With a wry turn of his lips he subtly lifted the bottle in her direction, a tiny silent toast, and then sipped.
Finding herself mirroring his swallowing action, and finding her throat rawly dry, she registered her own incredible thirst. Not necessarily for water. What it would be to lick away the drops from his lips. To have him turn into her and take her mouth, giving her exactly what she needed right now. She shivered, her heat almost a fever. She remembered herself and refocused. The slight smile, the tiny tug at the corner of his mouth put her on guard. There was knowledge in his eyes. Sinful awareness. She realised he'd had a direct view into her head and seen exactly what she'd been thinking. From his expression, he didn't think the idea was too bad either.
She turned back to the band and this time really put the blinkers on. Not going to look his way at all. Unbelievable. Her insides churned. She wanted him. He was exactly what she'd been looking for and never expected to find. A man who'd take the sexiest-man-alive title unchallenged. A man who, with just a look, told her she was beautiful.
Despondency dampened her burgeoning excitement. That look would change the minute he saw herreally saw her. Attraction would fade to pityand fear. Sienna hated seeing fear in the eyes of a lover. It didn't exactly make her feel desirable. It didn't make her feel normal and for once, just once, she wanted normal. And that put her crazy fantasy in mind once more. Number one on her list of life experiences. She'd penned it in her journal only this morning on the beach. Front page, fifteenth volume. And she meant it this timeshe was going to fulfil at least one New Year's resolution. Could she attempt it? Could she really get away with it?
She pushed a breath out as her fingers toyed with the high neck of her tee shirt. She hadn't a chance. No way could she ever manage it. Lovers tended to get naked. Sienna didn't want nakednot her at any ratebecause then the fun would end and the pity party would start.
She glared at the sticks hitting the drum. Watched the relentless strike on the skin, wanting a hypnotic effect. Failed. She flicked a glance back to the bar, unable to stop her need to at least look at him one last time.
An acute and way over the top amount of disappointment flooded her when she saw he wasn't there. He'd gone.
End of fantasy.
Her thumbs itched. Hell, everything itched. She stared at the stage, the energy in her bursting to get out. She knew the sure way to make herself feel betterto beat out the blues as she had many a time. She stood and walked right up to the edge of the stage. The singer stopped and the band cut the music.
'I'm sorry. I know this is a really strange thing to ask and it's fine to say no, but would you mind if I had a turn on the drums?' Her heart raced and she looked to the drummer as she asked the final part.
'You play the drums?'
'Sure. But I'm on holiday and I haven't been near a set for a while and I'd really like to.' She flashed a smile. Hoped they wouldn't think she was some desperate groupie. Really, all she wanted was to play the drums.
'We could do with a break. Go right ahead.'
Pleasure washed through her. 'Thank you.' She took the steep step up onto the stage and headed to the back. The drummer handed her the sticks with a smile. She felt the weight of them in her hands and then set them on the snare.
She pulled her hair up off the back of her neck and twisted it into a knot on the top of her head, regretting the loss of her fifty-thousandth scrunchie. She spun the seat a few turns to lower it a little. Flexed her wrists and then rotated her hands round a couple of times. Picked up the sticks, pulled back her shoulders and sat. She tilted her head from side to side in her little pre-drumming warm-up routine. Her foot tapped and mentally she worked through the rhythm, slipping easily into the zone and feeling her body come alive. Her smile spread slow and wide across her closed mouth. This was exactly what she'd needed. Then she moved, hands, feet, whole bodymoving separately but together to create one hell of a noise.
Rhys Maitland stood at the far end of the bar and clamped his jaw shut to stop it falling to the floor. He held his arms tight across his body as if to hold back the sudden rush of adrenalinmake that attraction. He'd been in unchartered territory since that strawberry-blonde had walked into the bar and stared right into him with those huge blue eyes of hers. His brain hadn't been working properly since. Instead he'd been filled with one thought only. Getting her naked. Yep, screaming lust central. Thing was, he had a feeling that same thing might have happened to her. She kept glancing at him, and that was definitely a good sign. Either that or he was wearing his lunch on his chinthe attention she paid to his mouth. He'd taken a sip of water to cool his internal heat, but the need to move had grown too strong and he'd slipped out the bar and back round so he could watch her from behind, so he wouldn't be sent into cardiac arresther eyes were more powerful weaponry than anything he'd ever encountered.