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Everyone has a line they won't cross. Celeste Patron found hers thirty thousand feet in the air and two rows back.
He was easily a head taller than she was — in heels — looking both slick and hard. His face, his entire body, looked etched from something solid. Not stone. Something less ordinary ... Marble? Volcanic rock?
The screen on her plus-sized phone dimmed over the book she'd opened earlier. Normally, a steamy novel drew her in for hours. Today, reading a love scene was like skimming across a frozen pond. Her attention, and Vix, had been wandering down the aisle since takeoff.
"Good afternoon, this is your captain speaking." Celeste's stomach took a nosedive. Were they about to land? Already? "Houston is rerouting all incoming traffic for the next few hours." People around her grumbled, concerned or annoyed, as the plane seemed to hit the brakes in midair. "We don't have all the details," he continued in a steady tone cultivated to soothe and inform. "But it sounds like heavy rain caused an aircraft to skid off the runway."
The tightness in her chest loosened a tiny bit before a pang of guilt assailed her. What kind of a person considered an accident to be great news? "We've started our descent into nearby Breman airport. Passengers with connecting flights ... "
Celeste leaned back in her seat, grateful for the reprieve. After years of occasional phone conversations and the obligatory holiday visits, her father had called her home for an extended stay. It wasn't exactly a request. If Victor Oziel Ayala wanted something, it was simply done.
Her thumb hovered over the phone's home button while she ran her tongue along the seam of her lips. Was the hottie dozing? She strained to hear any sounds. With the new destination she was almost out of time to grab a pic — if she dared do it at all.
The followers on her blog, Diary of a Vixen, had skyrocketed when she photobombed hot guys during her first marathon. She'd cropped the pictures to show little more of her than the workout gear and health tracker, which had earned her several sponsors. Once the Today Show featured her posts, the hits to her page had crashed the site. It proved the theory that propelled her through a successful marketing career; make people believe something and they'll love you for it. Her greatest accomplishment was convincing the world she was the outgoing, naughty blogger she portrayed online. Vix, her online persona, was wanton, flirty, extroverted, and able to say the most outrageous things. Everything Celeste could never be in the real world. In fact, nobody would believe boring, straight-laced Celeste Patron would want to slip into Vix's stilettos and get a little wild. But deep inside, she did.
So every post started with "What would Vix do?" Then she tweaked the scene until it felt right. In this case, it was a no-brainer. In the privacy of the single row, she angled the screen, bringing up the camera to see past her. Flipping the view for a selfie, she focused on the leather pants hugging the hard angles of his thighs, pausing on the breathtaking bulge under his zipper. Celeste crossed her legs, pressing them together against the insistent pulse. She envied whoever he was dreaming of, and whatever scandalous thing they were doing.
The views for this shot would hit the six-digit mark within hours. Vix quietly nodded from the perch in the back of Celeste's mind. Her pics were usually selfies, with the actual focus on a hot guy in the background. A tad voyeuristic? Maybe. But because the shots were all in a public place, with no real expectation of privacy, she'd snapped them without a problem. There wasn't much chance of doing that here without drawing attention.
Well, it didn't mean she couldn't look, right? Undaunted, she continued up a dark-blue shirt to where the sleeves hugged tanned biceps stretched across an impressive chest. His breathing was even, same as before. Good. Vix sighed, her long lashes brushing her cheeks as she settled in next to the GQ biker, crossing shapely legs to run her bare toes along his calf.
No, that wasn't quite right. Vix frowned in annoyance then reappeared beside her. Tossing her hair, she sashayed past in sky-high stilettos and a black leather halter dress that barely covered her ass. She placed her hands on his shoulders, her nails dragging across hard muscles, then straddled his thighs, lowering herself on the tented material with a sensual purr. Would the leather feel cool against her inner thighs, or warm from the heat of his body? In her limited experience, Celeste had never considered how the material would feel against her skin.
Vix settled her breasts over his arms and leaned in to brush her lips across his. She trailed kisses up his strong jaw, stopping to nip his ear, then rolled her hips along his length. How else could she make sure he was awake, since his eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses. Celeste shifted in her seat, her body humming over the imagined encounter. She'd always had a vivid, and sometimes wicked, imagination, but this was a whole other level of inappropriate for her — uh, for Vix. Regardless, it was the closest she'd come to joining the mile-high club.
The landing gear dropped with a dull thud. If she was ever going to do something improper, this was the ultimate first. She had another few seconds to grab a full body shot. Her followers would be thrilled, and she could relive her fantasy on those long, lonely nights in her tiny cottage. Her lips pulled into an involuntary smile as she pressed down. This would make one hell of a post. But the plane dipped, and GQ unfolded his arms, leaning over to pull up the window blind.
Celeste swallowed her gasp. He'd been awake? Heart beating in her throat, she flattened her back against the seat, bringing the phone to her chest. Had he seen what she was doing? Oh God, what had she been thinking? Vix pouted as she settled in the usual spot in the back of Celeste's mind, fanning herself while she batted her lashes at him over the seat back.
Yeah, a woman like Vix would have him following with a crook of her finger. The only way she'd get a guy to follow her was if he was in line beh — Her eyes widened, and her stomach dropped as the plane touched down. GQ was going to be right next to her as they deplaned. Ugh. This couldn't be happening.
Seat belts clicked, and the sounds of movement behind her escalated into a roar inside her head. She'd let them go first. All of them if necessary. He'll be by any minute, and he won't even know I'm here. Her entire life, people had looked past her, the second child. The "Too Girl". Too pale. Too blonde. Her blue eyes a shade too washed out to be flattering.
She sat back, waiting for the stampede. Footsteps started, then nothing. Her heart pounded faster, half expecting the worst. Holding her breath, she peeked over, finding dark leather just past the corner of her eye. Wide-eyed, she turned, looking over her shoulder, like the star of her own personal horror movie. GQ inclined his head slightly and gestured with his right hand. "After you." The words echoed in her chest, deep and warm.
Ummm. Her demure little stool in the background of life collapsed. She tried looking to Vix, but the traitor was busy drooling over pure male perfection. Celeste reached out blindly, jabbing her fingers as she grabbed her purse and coat, all while he was surely scrutinizing her clumsy movements. There were words to be said, but she had no idea what.
Pushing to her feet, she adjusted her bag as people shuffled with impatience. "Sorry," she squeaked, stepping into the aisle. She'd known GQ was tall, but even with her heels, she was eye level with his throat. "Thank you," she murmured. Heat moved up her face while she grasped the seat in front for support.
He didn't know. If he'd seen what she was up to he would've at least given her a knowing smirk, right? Something to say "I saw what you did". She moved up the bridge with him hovering in her peripheral vision. Nerves stretched tight, she sped up and ultimately made it worse. Now he was behind her, able to scrutinize every extra pound she hadn't managed to shed while running. Despite the routine, her hips and bottom were nowhere near perky and slender.
The small airport had four gates, and it would take less than a minute to walk from one end of the building to the other. She made a beeline to the one and only car rental desk just as the clerk was walking away.
"Wait. Sir, please hold on a minute." Celeste broke into a jog before the older man got too far.
"Afternoon." The silver-haired gentleman gave her a friendly smile. "How can I help ya?"
"I wanted to rent a car." She reached for her wallet.
"I'm afraid I'm all out."
"What?" Celeste shifted her coat to the other arm. "Nothing?"
"'Fraid not. Last planeload took the cars, and most of tomorrow's, too. That's if anything comes in, with the roads bein' flooded and all."
She needed to get out of here. If not all the way to Houston, at least somewhere that wasn't here. "Can you see if you still have anything left for tomorrow?"
He looked from her to the people coming in behind her and gave a resigned sigh. "Let's see if we can get in. The internet's been actin' up." Settling behind the desk, he logged into the old computer while he scooped up her driver's license and credit card. "Where ya headed to?"
"Houston." She folded her arms over the counter, willing the computer to load faster.
He stared at the screen, hitting tab and enter as he shook his head. "You might come by in the morning. See if any of them is going your way. Heard a few making plans to share a car."
"You're sure. There isn't a single car?"
"Nope. In fact, someone just snatched up the last one online. And he's goin' ta Houston, too," he said with a brilliant smile.
A phone dinged nearby. "That would be my confirmation email," GQ's deep voice added from somewhere behind her.
No-no-no. Her stomach roiled.
The older gentleman sent a knowing grin over her shoulder. "Well, looks like we got you a ride, Miss ..." He checked her license.
"Celeste," she rushed to supply. Holy Moly. "Ummm, you don't need to do that. I can catch a bus." She pushed the cards into her wallet.
"The buses are on hold, too, with all the rain."
"Of course they are." Fate had a fickle sense of humor.
"I'd be happy to give you a lift," GQ said from beside her. Good manners left her no choice but to take a step to her right so she wouldn't give him her back. "I'm Rio."
God, he really was good looking. And she was supposed to sit next to him for hours without making a complete fool of herself. How? Unfortunately, her choices were shrinking by the second. She couldn't exactly stay and wait it out. Her father had come to Houston specifically to meet her flight. Waiting wouldn't be an option. So what was the lesser of two evils? Did she ride with the hot Latino that made her melt from the inside or suffer the wrath of the rich and powerful Oz?
Vix's hand curled around his bicep as she pressed her breast against him. She slid long, manicured nails down to loop her arm through his and winked at Celeste.
Rio gave an inward smile as the rental clerk, who'd offered them a ride, turned the corner toward the hotel and Celeste's skirt went riding up well-defined thighs. She sat next to him on the bench seat, her crossed legs angled toward him thanks to the gearshift in the ancient Chevy truck. The woman must be a runner if he had to guess. He'd never understood leg men. The first thing they did was toss those legs apart to claim the prize. But watching her fingers chase after the hem, he had the urge to explore the skin along the slope of her thighs — with his mouth. He grimaced inwardly. Those thoughts shouldn't be in his head. A woman like her had no business being with a guy dragging his kind of baggage.
"Here ya go." The old timer pulled over to the curb in front of the Breman Hotel. "They got some good food at that cafe up the street." He pointed to a sign. "The missus loves the Danish at the coffee shop back there. And a few places fer you ta get some clothes since the airline lost your luggage."
"Thank you." Celeste gathered her purse and coat.
Rio checked the surroundings from behind his shades. Clearing the area was ingrained, out of necessity. He grabbed his duffel off the floorboard, throwing the strap over his shoulder as he stretched across her for a handshake. "Thanks, Bud."
"Eh, no worries."
Rio stepped into the chilly air, scanning the other side of the street while he offered Celeste a hand. Seconds ticked by before cold fingers tentatively slipped into his, as he'd expected. She'd been raised with manners, and a good deal of money, if her clothes were any indication. Classy, yet low key.
Most people at the airport had looked right past her, or through her, but to him, she stood out from everyone else, in more ways than one. With her down-turned head and graceful manner she was the picture of innocence — which was a crying shame. He looked back just as her skirt did another one of those peekaboo things when she stepped out. Yeah, a crying shame. He couldn't have stopped himself from looking if he tried.
Yanking back her hand, she shut the door and then pulled on her coat, missing the sleeve. Distracted, she caught her shoe in a tree root punching through the battered sidewalk. "Whoop — "
Rio reached out in a purely reflexive attempt to catch her. Every softly rounded curve he'd been itching to explore landed in his arms, settling against him. He held her and watched, fascinated, as she shuffled emotions across her face in a split second, like she'd done on the plane. Eyes widening in shock. Brows drawing together in embarrassment, then releasing as she discovered his hard-on pressing against her belly. And finally, her lips parting in a sharp breath.
His cock stiffened further, hard enough to separate them under any other circumstance. Meanwhile, little Miss Innocent stared at his mouth like he held the answer to life itself. He ran his thumb along her lower back. "You okay?"
She set her forehead on his shoulder but didn't move. "I may never be okay again." Her whispered confession held such a woeful note, he couldn't help but burst out laughing.
His unexpected bark sounded strange to him. How long had it been? He shook his head. Celeste, with her angelic appearance, had more layers than he'd initially thought. She hid behind the appearance of a very proper librarian, but he recognized a disguise when he saw it.
She'd no more been reading on the flight than he'd been sleeping. Though she'd kept it on the down low, he knew a good eye fucking when he was on the receiving end. Her tight little ass squirmed in her seat when she'd caught sight of the tent in his pants. Then, to his utter surprise, she'd tried taking a picture. No ICE agent worth his salt would let that happen. Not when a cartel could put a face to the target on his back.
A perverse need to see her reaction made him put her on the spot. Again, he'd been stunned, watching emotions flash across her features, hinting at something complicated and fascinating deep inside. He'd never chased a woman before, but when she bugged out, he'd tracked her with the same determination he hunted his marks. The lack of rental cars rattled her, and once she'd finished her lost luggage claim, all the taxis were out. So she'd had no choice but to accept the ride and sit next to him on the way to town. He grinned.
Now here they were, all alone, in a place nobody knew them. She was full-bodied and curvy, but he'd easily toss her over his shoulder and find the first quiet corner to set her down, straight onto his hard cock.
He caught himself. Celeste wasn't a dark-corner girl. If she was, he wouldn't be so turned on by her response. Damn it. Those blue eyes may be sparkling with interest, but she'd end up with way more than she bargained for. Women like her didn't sleep with a guy without some promise of tomorrow, and he didn't go past right now.
Pushing back, she straightened as a blush stole across her pale features. He scooped up her coat, wrapping it across her shoulders. "Come on, let's check in, then we can grab lunch."
"Th-that's okay." She ran her hand along her temple, down to where a flat clip held her hair at the base of her neck. "I, um ..."
Yeah, he should get himself to a room, or better yet, call one of the guys in Dallas to airlift him out. According to a reliable C.I., one of his top marks was coming to Houston. He'd been called in to organize his men and track the son of a bitch. It was a hell of a time to be stranded.
Excerpted from "Temptation and Treachery"
Copyright © 2017 Sahara Roberts.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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