Authors: Jessica Gray
Ethan let his head fall back into the pillows, wrapping his arms lightly around her body as she relaxed against his chest. He was still panting, as if he’d just run a marathon. It they kept going at each other in this fast and furious pace, he wouldn’t need to do cardio exercise. In fact, he was liable to overwork his heart.
He took in a deep breath and released it. “Want to take a shower with me?”
“I could use one,” she murmured against his chest.
He kissed the top of her head and then pushed her to the side, disengaging from her body with a silent groan of denial.
“Come on. Up you go.” He reached for her. He started to pick her up again, but she smiled at him and swung her legs over the side of the bed.
“I can walk, you know?”
He swooped her up anyway, “I know, but I happen to like carrying you around.”
Hazel giggled and relaxed in his arms. “Can I tell you a secret?”
He looked down into her amazing eyes. “Anything.”
“I like being carried around. By you.”
Ethan smiled at her and shouldered his way into the bathroom. He set her down in the shower, started the water running, and joined her. It was unbelievable, but minutes after his intense release, he was hard again. Hazel had noticed his arousal, too and seductively pressed her body against his, while lathering him with soap.
He groaned, “Sorry, darling. As much as I’d love to make love to you the whole day, I have a plane to catch,” and turned on the water to help rinse her long hair.
But she caught his hand and smiled seductively as she said, “Or we could do this real quick.”
The next moment she crisscrossed her long legs around his hips and slung her hands around his neck. She was unbelievably sexy like this, his little siren who demanded him to satisfy her, and who was he to protest?
Just when he lowered her onto his throbbing erection, he groaned, “Shit. No condom.”
She crunched her nose and said, “I’m on the pill and I haven’t had sex in more than two years.”
Ethan looked at her innocent eyes and responded, “And I’ve never had unprotected sex before.”
Her wet folds rubbed over the tip of his shaft as she murmured in a voice thick with lust, “Then, what are you waiting for?”
He slid into her, wondering if he’d ever get enough of her. He backed her up against the tiles and thrust hard and fast, until he felt her muscles tensing. He loved the way she held on to him as she came apart in his arms.
With one last powerful thrust into her wonderful tightness that fit so perfectly around him, he gave in to his own release.
Oh, how he loved her. With every cell of his body, with every beat of his heart, and with his entire soul.
After they’d both come down from their peak, he carefully set her down, opened the shower door, and tossed her a towel. He dried his body off, rubbed the towel over his hair, and prepared to shave.
She wrapped the towel around her body, and reached for another one, which she used to wrap around her head in a semblance of a turban. Then she sat down on the toilet and watched him shave with a soft smile upon her face. “What do you do for work?”
He met her eyes in the mirror as he lathered shaving cream along his jaws and chin.
“Well, for the last few years I’ve been living in London. I’ve only just returned to the States to start a new business venture.”
“A new venture?” she inquired.
“I’m a businessman. Have you ever heard of angel investing?” He almost cut his skin. Hell, how was he supposed to concentrate on shaving when those deep blue pools looked at him?
He scraped the razor across his chin and then rinsed the remnants of the shaving cream from his face.
“Angel investing? No…” She leaned back and he could see the appreciation in her eyes when she let them rake over his naked body. Scorching heat followed the path of her gaze. Enough to make him hard again. He turned to face her, leaning a hip against the counter. When she caught sight of his hard-on, she blushed deeply and averted her eyes.
“All your doing, darling. One should think I’ve had enough of you for one morning. But it turns out I’m still getting hard when you look at me like this.”
“I’m sorry.” Her blush intensified, and he chuckled and wrapped his towel around his waist. “Better?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Silly, I know. But…”
He tipped her chin up and kissed her nose. “You don’t have to justify how you feel with me.” He searched her eyes and when she nodded, he let go of her chin and began explaining his business.
“Angel investing is a way of combining investors with new businesses. Usually startup companies, but I do the vetting, and people who have money to invest join with me and we all reap the benefits.”
“So, you make money by investing in other people’s ideas?” She frowned.
“Yes, but they make money as well. See, many people have great ideas, but can’t meet the stringent requirements needed for bank financing. That’s where my investors and I come in. We give them the money they need to get their companies up and running, and in return, we own a share of their company and get a say in decisions. And we make big money if the company is sold to a bigger one or goes public.”
He paused and searched her eyes for understanding. Most people didn’t grasp the idea of angel investing when exposed to it for the first time.
She nodded. “Seems to make sense. So you work for some kind of hedge fund, is that it?”
“I used to when I was in London. But I came back to the States to found my own business angel portal, one that allows the smaller investors the opportunity to participate in the same types of deals the big players have at their fingertips. Anyone who is an accredited investor will be able to sign up for my portal, which will be called AngelSeeds. Imagine a web-based application where you can log in and choose which companies you want to invest in. When they do, I receive a commission.”
“Okay, but why would anyone do that and not go directly to the company in question?” She looked confused and he had to laugh.
“Because they can’t. To invest directly you usually need a minimum sum of a hundred thousand dollars, sometimes a million dollars. Going through AngelSeeds the minimum amount is ten thousand dollars, and I bundle up the money to invest directly.” He could go on for hours talking about his business, but he didn’t want to overwhelm her with boring finance stuff.
She glanced at him and said, “I think I get it. So what is your next move?”
“I have to fly to Santa Clara today, where I have a meeting with an IT company to get all of the programming done. There’s a lot of technical stuff involved before I can launch the portal.”
“That sounds somewhat confusing,” she said and stood up to release the towel around her head.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds. Enough about me. What do you have planned for today?”
Her wonderful ebony hair tumbled down her shoulders, taking the other towel with it, and he caught a glimpse of her naked body, before her hair covered her breasts and her stomach all the way down to her waist. All his blood rushed below his waistline as his eyes followed the sliding towel downward to the velvety vee between her legs. Ethan had to hold onto the vanity in order not to ravish the striking beauty in front of him again.
She leaned down to pick up the fallen towel, but he caught her hand and said with a thick voice, “Please don’t. You’re so beautiful.”
Hazel’s entire body flushed beneath his appreciative stare and he could feel the heat radiating from her. “You look like Lady Godiva, clothed only in her hair.”
With these words he lightly traced his finger up her arm, her neck, and over her chin to her luscious red lips. Oh, how he loved her reaction to his touch. She shivered, her gaze intensified, and his heart melted for her. “Oh, my little siren, you have me lured to you.”
She giggled at that and broke the spell by stepping out of his reach. “I believe you have a plane to catch, Ethan. And to answer your question, I have two job interviews at different hair salons in town.”
“I can take you,” he offered while following her to the guestroom, where she opened her suitcase to pull out fresh clothing.
“You don’t have to do that.” She picked a simple white blouse and dark blue skinny jeans from her suitcase and quickly got dressed, deliberately ignoring him as he stood in the doorway watching her with hungry eyes.
I will never get enough of her. Ever.
“Think you can find your way around town? You are the same girl who lost her truck at the beach. Remember?”
She arched a brow at him, but laughed. “That may be true. My sense of direction is not the best.”
“Again, my offer stands.”
When she was fully dressed, she turned and looked at his towel. “Do you always conduct your meetings dressed so informally?”
He smirked at her jest and invited her to make herself at home in the living room. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
When he wandered into the living room, he found her standing in front of a bookshelf that contained a plethora of framed pictures, his favorite family picture in her hand.
He snuck up to her from behind when he saw her eyes filled with tears. “Hazel, darling?” he asked, taking the picture from her trembling hands and replacing it on the shelf.
She swiped at her wet cheeks. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. Why the tears?” He hugged her and she pressed her face against his chest.
“That picture reminded me of my mom.” Her voice was unsteady, on the verge of breaking.
He placed a kiss on the top of her head. “You miss her?”
“I do. But not in the way you think. She died three months ago.”
Ethan wrapped his arms tighter around her. “I’m so sorry, Hazel. How?”
She sniffed and then sighed. “It was a blessing in disguise, really. She’d been in so much pain, and sick for so long. I still have trouble remembering what she was like before she got so sick.”
“Cancer?” he guessed again, cringing when she nodded. “How long was she sick?”
“Two and a half years.” She looked up at him, tears glistening in her blue eyes. “They seemed like decades. I couldn’t cope with the memories, so I sold everything and left my hometown. This is why I’m here.”
She stopped speaking, and he noticed the same sad and distant look in her eyes that had struck him at the beach. “You know, you’re welcome to leave your things here at my place if you want to. You could even stay for a couple of days until you find another place to live.”
Hazel glanced up at him, determination entering her eyes, and shook her head. “Thanks, but this was supposed to be a one-night stand. Staying with you for several days wasn’t part of the arrangement.”
Ethan couldn’t contain his look of disappointment, but then he reminded her, “I’m off to the airport and then to Santa Clara. I won’t be back for three days. You’re welcome to stay here for as long as you want, or need to.”
“You won’t be here?” she asked him, as if that made his offer better.
Ethan had made his decision, but nevertheless, he also sensed this was all moving so fast, too fast for her. And from what she’d just told him, she’d been through an emotional blender the last few years. He’d give her all the time she might need. Patience wasn’t his strength, but for Hazel, he’d be patient. She was worth it.
“No, I won’t be here. At least, not for the next three days. Stay here and do what you need to do to get settled in Sandy Beach.”
She thought about his offer for a moment and then slowly nodded her head. “Thank you. I accept your offer, but it will be just for a few days. I’ll start looking for a place to live as soon as I have a job.”
“Stay as long as you want.” He meant it too. He liked having her in his home. He’d like seeing her every day. And every night.
Hazel left Ethan’s apartment after breakfast.
He’d talked her into staying at his place, just temporarily, and she tried not to read anything else into it. Her heart had surrendered to him from the very first moment she’d met him at the beach, but her mind was still adamant about getting out of the mess her life was in before she’d plunge into a relationship.
She left her suitcases in the guestroom, silently agreeing with him that it didn’t make much sense for her to be driving around Sandy Beach with them in the back of her truck.
Ethan followed her to the front door, pulling her into his strong arms when she first reached for the doorknob. She wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her cheek against his hard chest. His heart was beating steadily but ratcheted up a notch when she moved her hands down to cup his ass. Like her own heartbeat. She tipped her head up and met his lips with her own.
Why does kissing him feel so good?
The connection she felt to him was confusing, to say the least, and sadness filled her soul at the outlook of not seeing him again. But first, she needed to get her life back on track before she could even think about a relationship. It wasn’t fair to burden him with her problems.
Ending the kiss, she stepped back. “Have a nice trip to Santa Clara.”
“Thanks. Good luck with your interviews.”
“I hope so.” Hazel opened the door and quickly made her way to her truck. She had two meetings at different hair salons; the first one was a place called “Fast Scissors.”
Not a name I would have chosen for my salon.
The owner was very nice but uncommitted, and left her with the vague promise to call back at the end of the week.
Now her hope was with the second salon, called “Hairworks.” Once she arrived there, she instantly loved the place; even from the outside it looked classy, elegant, and friendly at the same time.
She slid from the seat of her vehicle, hoping she wouldn’t need to scout for more job interviews. She pushed through the doorway and a friendly blonde stocking the shelves behind the counter greeted her. “How can I help you?”
Hazel squared her shoulders and answered, “I have a job interview with Veronica Carter.”
Before the girl could respond, an older woman turned around and waved her forward. “You must be Hazel.”
“Yes. Hazel Mendes.” She extended her hand and found it clasped by an elegant hand with dark purple nail polish and extravagant rings on every finger.
“I’m Veronica, and this is my little kingdom.” The owner was obviously very proud of her salon, and Hazel followed her eyes around the place. Everything was kept in different shades of gray, with drops of pink here and there. Huge mirrors with diffused background lighting softened the otherwise austere atmosphere and gave the room a cozy touch.
Five or six girls were chatting along while coiffing their clients. Hazel instantly felt at home in this hair salon. Veronica had managed to make it a friendly place where the clients enjoyed the time they had to spend there.
“It’s an inviting place, Veronica.”
The owner smiled from ear to ear. “Come on in, sweetie, let’s retreat to my office. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. Thank you. I’m here about the job?” Hazel answered, hoping she sounded confident and followed the woman to the back of the salon. She guessed her to be in her fifties, but dressing like a twenty-year-old. Not any twenty-year-old, though. Her extravagant appearance included knee-high black leather boots, black sheer tights, and a minuscule black skirt showcasing glittery applications in purple, pink, and white. It barely covered her butt; Hazel thought she wouldn’t ever dare to wear such a thing in public.
Veronica’s long hair was dyed a brilliant henna red with dancing blonde highlights, and her makeup was flawless. Extravagant indeed, but from one glance Hazel could tell, she was also very kind.
When they arrived at the small office in the back of the salon, Veronica sat down behind her desk and gestured towards a chair. “Have a seat. So, you’ve been doing hair for how long?”
“Well, I’ve been out of the field for a while. My mother got ill and I stayed home to take care of her. But I’ve worked as a temp and kept up with the latest trends.”
Veronica glanced her up and down before she said, “I like you. For starters I can offer you a salaried position as assistant hair dresser.” She gave the salary figure.
Hazel nodded. The sum was a decent amount, and yet in Sandy Beach, it wouldn’t be enough to live comfortably. She was deep into her thoughts when Veronica spoke up again. “I don’t pay until the end of the month, but you can take the tips you earn home every night.”
That would help a lot. She’d be able to pay for food and gas in between paychecks with her tips. “Thanks, Veronica…”
“Vero. All my friends call me that.”
Hazel smiled. “Thanks, Vero.” She really liked the woman. Vero might dress like a rebellious teenager, but she had a big and kind heart.
“So, what do you think?” Vero asked, taking a sip from her water bottle.
Hazel smiled at her. “I’ll take it.”
“Great! When can you start?”
Hazel chuckled at Vero’s eagerness and said, “Tomorrow?”
“That sounds good. Let’s get your papers ready.” She took a pen and filled in some paperwork, “Where are you staying?”
Hazel hesitated, unsure if she should mention Ethan’s offer, or the fact that she didn’t have a place to stay yet. She looked at Vero and swallowed hard as the light dawned in the other woman’s eyes.
“You don’t have a place to stay. Do you, hon?” Her kind voice almost brought Hazel to tears.
She shook her head. What could she say but the truth? “I just arrived in town yesterday and I need to look for a place to stay this afternoon.”
Vero sighed and scribbled something on the paper. “For now I’ve put the address of the salon. It can be really difficult to find something affordable in Sandy Beach. You might try the small town about ten miles away from the lake. It’s quite rural and doesn’t attract the tourists like Sandy Beach does.”
“I’ll do that,” Hazel informed her.
“Well then, come on back and meet the crew.” Vero introduced her to everyone and then left her standing in the middle of the salon with the other girls gathering around her.
“So, you have a boyfriend?”
Hazel shook her head, “No. Why?”
“Well…” The girls chattered away about the single men in town, and Hazel had to bite her lip to keep from laughing, when one of the male patrons just sat there rolling his eyes. Her colleagues seemed to be nice enough, getting her up to date with the town’s latest gossip, the hottest movies and music, but Hazel was more focused on the clientele she would be serving.
Sure, she needed to get to know her colleagues, but they wouldn’t pay her bills. The clients would do that.
She finally managed to excuse herself from the salon and headed back to Ethan’s house. Right after walking inside, memories of last night and this morning assailed her and her knees went week.
I can’t let myself get sucked into him and his perfect world.
Her first impulse was to grab her stuff and run.
But when she stood with her suitcase in hand at the door and looked back one more time, she couldn’t get herself to leave. Just one more night. He wouldn’t be here, so she didn’t have to fear giving in to his attraction.
And sleeping in her car wasn’t exactly an enticing alternative. One more night in the coziness of a real house. What could it hurt?
She heated up the remains of the lasagna from the day before retreating to the bedroom. But at the doorway to the master bedroom she stopped at seeing the bed, and her mind replayed every delicious detail from the night before and she felt herself getting damp between her legs.
No, she couldn’t sleep in his bed. Not without him. And certainly not with him if she wanted to stay away from him. With a sigh she settled into the guestroom.