Authors: Gail Hart
Rules were meant to be broken; condoms not so much…
Business executive Katie St. John has given up on love, which she sucks at, to focus on her red-hot career. All she wants from Steve Tyler, an ultra-sexy, surprisingly sweet, and much younger Air Force pilot, is help crossing some items off her secret to-do list of sexual fantasies. Sure, the chemistry between them is hotter than the Cayman sun, but once this vacation’s over, she’ll say good-bye and go back to plotting corporate coups.
But Steve won’t settle for being her temporary boy toy. He’s lusted after Katie, the glamorous older woman who lived next door when he was a kid, since he was old enough to know what lust was. Now that she’s finally moved from his fantasies to his bed, he’s not about to let her go without a fight—especially once he learns she’s returned home with the mother of all souvenirs!
Sun-Drenched Publishing, San Antonio, Texas
A burst of red, green and blue tracers lit up the sky over the harbor in George Town, Grand Cayman, followed by a loud boom. There were still several hours left before midnight, but someone was getting a head start on celebrating the new year.
From her perch on a barstool in the Hard Rock Café, Kathryn St. John took the fireworks as her cue to get out of Dodge. New Year’s Eve was a couples sort of night, not the best time to work on her goal of finding a boy toy for a no-strings island fling. She’d be better off finishing her drink, going back to her hotel, and getting a good night’s sleep for the next day’s scuba diving. The search for prime meat could continue the next evening.
A sign in front of the mirror behind the bar announced that the Hard Rock was the “home of the second best mudslides in all of Cayman.” Kathryn hadn’t tried the top-rated mudslides, but these were damn good. She was on her second one and feeling it.
She hadn’t expected to fly solo on what would probably be her last vacation for a long time. Best girlfriend Amanda Conrad was supposed to be along as her wingman, sipping second-best mudslides and offering moral support. By now, bubbly blonde Amanda would have had an armada of suitable candidates surrounding them. Men like that rowdy bunch of twenty-somethings near the door. Their accents gave them away as Americans, their short haircuts and buff physiques as military, and the brown leather jacket one wore as pilots. Kathryn wrinkled her nose. She’d developed a distaste for that breed when she worked at the Pentagon. The recklessness and cockiness needed to keep them alive in combat made them obnoxious in other environments. But on the other hand, she reminded herself, those same qualities made them fun to party with and good bets for her plan.
Amanda would have gone for the dark, intense-looking guy in the bomber jacket. Kathryn’s gaze lingered longest on the white-blond California surfer god, broad as well as tall, his features movie star handsome rather than rugged. Would she be overreaching if she made a play for him? She looked pretty good for a woman her age, but no one would mistake her for a twenty-something.
A movement in the mirror caught her eye. Surfer Boy had disentangled himself from a giggling blonde and was headed her way, a near-empty beer mug in his hand. He must be coming to the bar for another round of drinks. And with every step, he looked better and better. She took in the silkiness of his hair, the bulk of his arm muscles, and the tapered narrowness of his waist. Oh yes, he was as fine a specimen as she’d ever seen in person—definitely the sort of man who’d know how to fulfill her fantasies. She stared at his image with frank admiration.
His intense blue eyes caught and locked on her eyes in the mirror. A knowing smile crossed his lips. A smile that made her stomach turn backflips.
Damn it, she was so busted. There was no point pretending she hadn’t been ogling him. She might as well go for it. She swiveled around on her barstool to face him.
Before she could get a word out, he said, “Hi there, gorgeous.” His voice reminded her of an earthquake, a deep low rumble that hinted of danger.
A shiver ran through her body. What a stroke of good luck that he had approached her. Now she could enjoy the view up close and personal. “Surely you can come up with a better line than that,” she said, giving his impressive biceps a gentle punch.
He fixed her with an intimate look that both annoyed and excited her. “I could, but I didn’t think I had to, since we’re such old friends.”
Intrigued, she raised an eyebrow at him. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t you recognize me?” His teasing expression certainly implied a past familiarity.
She crossed one leg over the other at the knee to draw attention to her legs, which she considered her best feature. “Darlin’,” she drawled, imitating the tone she imagined Amanda would take, “if I’d met you before, I guarantee I’d have remembered.”
“You may not remember me, but I remember you. You’re Katie St. John.”
“Kathryn,” she corrected him through her surprise. “I haven’t let anyone call me Katie since college.” She stared at his face. “Who are you, anyway?”
“I used to be the boy next door.”
She snorted. “The boy next door? I don’t think so. That would be Mike Tyler, and even in his wildest dreams, he never looked like you.”
His grin grew wider. “I’ll tell him you said so. I’m the other Tyler boy.”
Her mouth dropped open. “Little Stevie?”
She remembered a plump, clumsy little boy chasing after his teenage brother. But that was two decades ago. Now the boy was a man. He moved with fluid grace, and the baby fat was gone, replaced by solid muscle peeking out from under his rugby shirt.
He moved closer, his jeans brushing against her thigh. “I’m not so little anymore.”
“Obviously not.” And neither was he a stranger. She shook her head. “Good lord, and I was flirting with you. I’m sorry.”
A slight frown formed on his face. “Did you hear me complaining?”
“You didn’t exactly run screaming into the night,” she admitted, “for which I’m grateful. Sit down and let me make it up to you by buying you a drink.”
“No, I’ll buy you the drink. The guy buys the girl a drink; that’s how it works.”
He sank onto the barstool next to hers and slid his hand up her bare leg from her knee to the spot more than halfway up where her dress ended. His touch produced a tingling sensation that quickly spread to other parts of her body. Her intense physical reaction caught her off guard. Was this reaction a natural result of almost a year without a man, unrelated to Steve personally, or did they share some serious chemistry? Either way, she had trouble stifling a moan.
“Look, Katie—I mean, Kathryn. I’m not the little kid you remember. I’m all grown up. So can we please have this conversation on an adult-to-adult level?”
He obviously meant, on a man-to-woman level. There was no mistaking the intent behind his look—or his touch.
She couldn’t think straight with his hand on her leg. With more than a little regret, she grabbed his wrist and lifted it onto the bar. “Slow down, flyboy. You’ve made your point. I’ll let you buy me a drink.”
“What are you drinking?”
“A mudslide, but I’d better switch to diet soda.” She’d had a light dinner. On her small frame, a third mudslide would do more damage than she cared to imagine.
“Nonsense. New Year’s Eve is no time to be conservative.” He held up his hand to get the bartender’s attention. “Bring the lady another of the second best mudslides in all of Cayman, please,” he said, drawing a smile by pronouncing the name the way the islanders did, with the emphasis on the last syllable. “And I’ll have another Bud.”
“A man of simple tastes.”
“Not in everything.” She could only describe his direct stare as brazen.
She refused to blink first, so she stared back at him, using the opportunity to study his appearance more closely. “I’m embarrassed that I didn’t recognize you. I should have been tipped off by the family resemblance.” He shared his mother’s delicate blonde good looks, but his size, inherited from his father, saved him from a too-feminine appearance. He was a near perfect combination of the best of both parents. He was near perfect, period.
“You’ve slimmed down,” she said, squeezing her thighs together to combat an uncomfortable feeling of pressure. “I remember you as a chubby kid.”
He gave her a smile that tied her insides in fifty different kinds of knots. She decided what made it so disarming was its genuineness. It was sexy, but not in a deliberate or calculated way. “I still have that chubby kid inside me. The only cure is not overdoing these,” he waved his beer mug, “and a lot of time in the gym.”
Oh yeah, no doubt about it, he’d spent a lot of time in the gym. Those shoulders were phenomenal. Could the abs be as good? She’d best change the subject before she couldn’t resist ripping his shirt off to find out.
“I’ve changed too, but you recognized me.”
* * *
He almost hadn’t. The first time he’d seen her, walking out of the lobby of his hotel—their hotel?—he’d thought he was imagining things. Even at the bar tonight, he wasn’t sure it was her until she batted those impossibly long Katie eyelashes at him and spoke to him in that husky Katie voice.
She was shorter than in his childhood memories, but otherwise his mind hadn’t embellished. She was as beautiful as he remembered and remarkably unchanged. She still had thick, wavy brown hair, huge chestnut eyes, and soft, unlined skin unadorned by makeup. Though he knew she was in her late thirties, she looked a decade younger.
“I had an advantage,” he said. “The last time we saw each other, I was a kid, but you were a full-grown woman.” He stressed the words “full-grown.” Even back then he’d appreciated those soft Katie curves, generous without being excessive—curves now shown off in full potency by her low-cut sundress.
“That was ages ago, when I went off to Stanford,” she said.
“I was crushed when you left. At first you still came home for the summers. Then you graduated and went away for good.” He heard echoes of the child he’d been then in the plaintive tone of his voice.
“But you didn’t forget me.” Her voice held a note of surprise.
“How could I forget the nice lady who fed me ice cream?”
He wanted to add: how could he forget the first woman he’d ever seen naked? But sharing that information would be counterproductive to his soaring hopes of seeing her naked again soon.
Her expression softened. “I remember that. After dinner, we’d go out back on one of our patios with a couple of spoons and eat Ben and Jerry’s straight from the container.”
“Yeah, and you talked to me. Not at me, but to me. Most of the time I didn’t understand what you were talking about, but I didn’t care. You were one of the few people who never acted like I was a nuisance. I had a monster crush on you.”
“You were one of the few people who never made any demands on me. I enjoyed hanging out with you. Besides, I’m sure your mother never thought you were a nuisance.”
“No. Though it must have been a major shock when I turned up, ten years after my sister.”
“No kidding. I’d have freaked, but I don’t think anything makes Sandy freak. She takes whatever comes her way in stride. I always envied you for having such a calm, laid-back mother.”
“And I was jealous that you had such a dynamic mother. She was the life of the party.”
“That can get real old, real fast.”
Her lips twisted into a grimace and he decided he’d better change the subject. “So, were you the valedictorian at Stanford, too?” He grinned. “You taught me that word.”
Kathryn frowned. “I sure was full of myself, wasn’t I? As if being the valedictorian at some public high school was such a big freaking deal. I’ve learned humility since then. Everyone at Stanford was exceptional, so I was put in my place pretty fast. But yeah, I did okay.”
Taking in her simple but expensive jewelry, he felt her “okay” was an understatement. “What have you done with your life since then?” he asked.
“I’m with a consulting firm in D.C. We do a lot of defense contracting work.” She reached into her purse and handed him a business card.
He glanced at it. “Vice President of Operations.”
“Yes. Though I expect to be changing titles in a few weeks.”
“Impressive. That translates... enough money to afford a Rolex and diamond earrings. No wedding band, though.” He touched the naked fourth finger of her left hand.
“That about sums up my job. The money’s great, but the eighty-plus-hour weeks play hell with your social life.”