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Authors: J Q Anderson

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BOOK: Intercepted
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I scurry away and don

t stop until
I reach the glass doors leading to the employee wing. Before I push through, I
turn my head. His eyes are still on me and he grins.

Dammit
.

Chapter 6:
Jake

 

The moment she closes the door I start the countdown until I see her
again. Tamara will leave in the morning and it doesn't seem soon enough. I
curse myself inwardly for caving into the spell Natalia's put on me. Since when
I let a woman invade my thoughts? I know I've got to get a fucking grip, but
the anticipation for another encounter with her builds as the minutes pass,
knowing that come tomorrow I'll have free range to do whatever I want without
the nuisances of my job.

She said she has a fiancée and I can't help a stab of anger. I suddenly
have to know what the fucker looks like and what I'm up against.
Up against?
Christ, get a hold of yourself, Jake.
Right. First I have to know if she'd
be game. I don't have work commitments for the next two weeks and… Fuck. I
already sound like a stalker. But I know if I turn my back on whatever is
pulling me to Natalia I'll be left wondering. I have to know what the fuck this
is. Even if it means breaking the rules. I need to recover the peace of mind
that comes with being in control. By no means I

m interested in a relationship. I just need my
brain to stop imagining her naked body rocking against mine.

I head back to my room and when I unlock the door Tamara is getting into
bed, naked. My dick would normally stir at the sight of her sculpted body, but
instead I'm wishing she was already gone.
Fuck, Jake. Snap out of it.
She smiles, pleased to see me.

“Did you have a good workout? I hope you're not too tired.” Her smile
widens and I can't help the sudden dread that fills me.
One more night.
I'm pissed at my lack of restraint toward my rebellious mind, and give her an
appraising look.

“If I'm ever too tired for you, then there'd be something seriously wrong
with me, babe.” I smile and she throws her head back in laugher, pleased with
herself.

“Come here,” she says, extending her hand.

I rid myself of the towel and swim trunks and get into bed, fighting
against my now foul mood.
Get a fucking grip, Jake.

Luck is on my side. Tamara confesses she drunk too much with her friend.
I make love to her with my eyes closed and I don't think she cares. It doesn't
take her long to come and I'm relieved. She rolls over and is immediately
asleep, unaware I didn't get there. Normally this would piss me off, but
tonight I don't care because my thoughts are with that sable haired girl I
can't get out of my mind.

The next morning I fuck Tamara in the shower before she leaves. I don't
even want to admit where my mind was as I slammed into her until she collapsed,
exhausted, in my arms. But it made for a satisfying start of the day. It also
made the urge to find Natalia prevail over everything else. It both pleases me
and pisses me off.

“The room is paid for till tomorrow,” Tamara croons, her arms hanging
around my neck as she kisses me goodbye one last time. “I figured you'd like
having a day to rest before going back.”

“Thank you, babe. That's very generous.” I give her a sideways smile and
kiss her.

“Will you be in Santa Monica for the next couple of weeks? Maybe we can
do another weekend.” Her blue eyes assess me. I contemplate the possibility for
a moment, then follow my gut and lie. She's starting to get clingy.


No babe. I'm not.
” I don't
explain further. She knows the boundaries. I don't talk about my schedule or my
personal life with clients.

I see the hurt cross her eyes, but I remain unaffected.

“Okay. See you soon then.” She smiles. I give her one last kiss before
she gets into the taxi that will take her to the airport.


Goodbye, Jake.

I watch her leave, then turn to the lodge.

Game on
.

I stride back into the lobby, my eyes sweeping across the lounge as I
pass. I know she's still not there. Her shifts are nights. I'm starting to feel
like a creep, but I only have one day left to put my mind at ease and assure
myself Natalia is no different from the other women I've met. Manipulative and
fucking deceitful. But I have to know for sure. And time is running out quick.

Says who?

Hm. I actually don't
have
to be back. The next two weeks are free.
I stop at the lounge entrance. The barman and a busboy are setting up for the
lunch shift. He looks up, acknowledging me with a nod. I nod back and scan the
room, but there are no signs of Natalia. Maybe it

s her day off.
Shit
. I feel like an
asshole, obsessing over a girl I barely know. Reminding myself she has a
fucking fiancée, I shake my head and stride to my room. I decide to hit the
slopes to rid my body and mind of the irrational thoughts that haunt me.

At the summit, the mountain is silent. The fog is so thick I can't even
make out the outline of my skis. I lower my goggles and speed off. I need this.
Feel the burn in my muscles. The exhilaration that comes from skiing at
blinding speed.

The snow is shit. I hit ice as I fly down a double diamond and almost
lose my balance when I catch an edge. The jagged end of a tree branch grazes my
forehead with a sting. As I get off the trail I hit a long patch of powder. It
makes the shitty morning worth it and for the next two hours my mind is only on
the trail ahead.

By the time I call it a day I am wrung up. I hand my ski boots to the
valet, eager for food and a shower. He tells me I

m bleeding and it takes me a few seconds to
realize he

s referring to the scrape on my
forehead. I wipe it off with a tissue I find in my pocket.

In my room, I open my laptop and check email while I wait for room
service. It

s been almost a week since I
sent the modifications to the plans for the surf shop to the contractor, but he
still hasn

t responded. We need all the
permits cleared so we can close the deal on that open spot by Cardiff Beach in
San Diego. I fire another email to him, stressing we are pressed on time and
letting him know I expect an answer in the next 24 hours. He better get on this
if he wants to keep his job.

By the time my food arrives I am famished. I make quick work of devouring
it, then take a quick shower. Free of all the tension from this morning, I
stand by the massive window and stare at the receding fog. What the fuck am I
after here…I should leave tomorrow and use the free time I have to find a place
to live in San Diego. If everything moves forward and I open the surf shop,
commuting to Santa Monica is out of the question. My mind wanders to my father.
He would be pleased to know I will have something to call my own. I drown that thought.

Shaking off the irrational impulse of staying, I pack my bag and get
ready to check out the next morning. Without much left to do, I decide to go
for a short swim and relax at the Jacuzzi, knowing Natalia will most likely be
working or having a day off and I won

t risk
running into her.

I swim a few laps, enjoying the fact that the fog chased off the usual
guests I see here. The fatigue from this morning skiing pulls at my muscles and
I call it a night. I leap off and slip into the steaming Jacuzzi, letting my
body unwind.

Chapter 7:
Natalia
:

 

I hang up and throw my phone on the bed. Dani looks up from her laptop
and gives me a wary look.

“What was that all about?”

“Shit.
Shit
.” I sit down on the bed and drop my face on my hands.

“Nati!” she scolds. I meet her expectant eyes.

“The hotel, in San Diego.” I sigh in irritation. “They were just calling
to confirm I got into the internship. They want me to start April second.”

“How is that
not
great news?”

“Because I will start in the kitchen, but the internship is in general
hotel management and the hotel wants all their interns to be able to rotate
between departments. I guess it

s part
of the program.”

“And?”

“Including the
pool
,” I
mutter.

“Oh.”
Her expression falls.

“Shit, Dani. What am I going to do? This internship is my ticket to
finally doing something on my own. I can

t let
this go.”

“How did you not know about the pool before now?”

“I was desperate to get in. I just answered Yes to all the requirements
and hoped I wouldn

t get that one. But it

s on the list they just gave me. The lady on the
phone said the pool is only a backup for the lifeguard on duty and that I can
get a CPR certification while I

m there.
Shit
.”

“Maybe you can get a pass. Maybe it

s not a
big deal to skip that one rotation, or they can switch it to something else.”

“Maybe, but Dani there were a over a hundred people trying to get this
spot. It was a miracle I got in. If I show them I

m inadequate before I even start, I

ll lose the shot at getting a job there
afterwards.”

She scratches the back of her head. “There

s gotta be something we can do. Maybe Zack can
think of something. He knows everyone here. Maybe he can get you lessons with
the swim instructor.” Just as she says that, Zack walks in. “Speak of the
devil,” Dani grins.

“What?” Zack nods.

“Natalia needs swimming lessons. Can you hook her up?”

He shrugs. “Maybe. They only have Tyler now. Not much demand for swimming
lessons in the winter.”

“Can you ask him?” I plead. “I can

t do the
internship unless I can swim.” My throat thickens. Even if Zack is able to help
me, that would mean getting in the water and, oh yeah, fucking learn how to
swim in a little over a month. What the hell am I thinking? Zack sees the
change in my expression and promises to pull whatever strings he can. I hug him
tight as he tells me everything will be alright, and I make myself believe it

s true. He pats my back and turns to Dani.

“I actually came to tell you two that they

ve switched tonight

s shift for the lunch tomorrow.”

“What?” Dani scowls. “What the hell? Why?” The lunch tips are not even
half of what we make in the evening, courtesy of the drunk slobs that can

t see straight by the time the bill comes.

“They

re closing the lounge tonight.
I guess one of the pipes underground is leaking and they have to fix it before
it bursts.”

“Dammit.” Dani sighs.

“There

s
a game in Derek

s
room at ten.
” Zack

s eyes dart to mine. “Everyone needs a partner.”

I give him a nod. “As long as Dani

s okay
with it. I already owe you, so if it

s good
with her it

s a Yes.”

Dani shakes her head. “It

s fine. I

m out. I
need to study for the Econ final. I

m
already behind.”

I sigh. Dani still has two finals left to take in Buenos Aires. I don

t push because I know she needs to study if she
wants to graduate in May.

“Are you sure you want in?” Zack eyes me skeptically. “You seem a bit
distracted and I

m counting on my wins tonight.”

I narrow my eyes. “Are you doubting me?”

“Nope.” He raises his palms in apology. “Just making sure. See you guys
later. I

m smashed from last night. I

m gonna take a nap.”

I leave Dani studying and go to the gym to burn off the adrenaline from
the call. What the hell will I do? The only water I tolerate is a steaming
Jacuzzi. I trick my mind into thinking it is no different than a bath, but
getting inside a real life swimming pool is a different story. The Wombats
blast from my headphones, the only effective way to shut up my mind as I sprint
on the treadmill with my eyes closed.

Once I have nothing else to give, I take a quick shower and set off to
the Jacuzzi to unwind. I wonder if Zack had time to talk to Tyler, and if he

s willing to help. I text Zack and he tells me to
hang on. My phone rings as I

m about to
step outside into the pool area. It

s Zack. My heart jackhammers my ribs.

“So? Will he do it?”

“Sorry, babe. Tyler is leaving tomorrow.”

“Shit, no. Is there anyone else?” Desperation creeps to my throat.

“No. They

re closing up for the season.
They won

t have another lifeguard till
the spring.”

“Fuckdammit.” I slide down against the wall and put my head between my
knees. “What am I going to do, Zack? I can

t lose this internship.”

He tells me we

ll figure
something out. Zack is not a great swimmer, but he says he can teach me some
basics. I know that won

t cut it, but
I thank him anyway.

The instant I push through the doors I regret it. I immediately recognize
the outline of the only body emerging from the steaming surface of the Jacuzzi.

Jake.

Goddamn my luck today. I decide I don

t give a crap. Dani is studying in our room,
which means if I go back there I will have to be quiet. Zack is off to buy
booze with Derek, so it

s either the
Jacuzzi or the ski runs in the fog. To hell with it.

When I am only a few steps away he raises his head and opens his eyes,
then frowns. What the hell is his problem? This area is open to employees too,
buddy. Tough luck if you don

t approve.
His eyes appraise me up and down and I immediately feel self-conscious.
Shit.
Is he checking me out? Since there

s not a
chance in hell I

m going in the pool, my options
are slim. I avoid his eyes and slide into the water, hooking my earphones on so
he knows I

m not up for a conversation
either.

“You don

t have to work?”

I can

t hear him, but I can

t help the fact that my eyes are always glued to
his mouth and I just read his lips.
Dammit
. I turn the volume down a
tad.

“Nope. Change of shift.”

He nods, his eyes never leaving mine.

“What

s the matter?” He says.

Now I

m ticked off. Seriously, what
does he care?

“Shitty day,” I mutter, closing my eyes, mainly because looking at him is
distracting. He

s got a fresh scrape across his
forehead and I wonder how it got there. Did he dodge a tree branch when he was
skiing? Maybe his Barbie girlfriend is a bit psycho and they got into a fight
because she caught him flirting with the staff. I giggle at the thought, not
realizing I just did it out loud.

“Something funny?” He raises an eyebrow.
Cocky bastard.
I scowl.

“How come you are always here alone? Didn

t you come with someone?”

“That

s why you

re giggling?

I shake my head. “No. Forget it.”

“Are you always this rude to people you barely know?” He frowns.

This catches me off guard. But he

s right.
I

m being short and downright rude, and he doesn

t deserve it. “I

m sorry.” I keep my eyes on him and he relaxes,
looking a bit puzzled. I think he wasn

t
expecting an apology.

“Why was your day shitty?” He asks. I stare at my hands under the water
to avoid looking into those endless caramel eyes.

“I love to cook,” I say with a half smile. “My biggest dream is to open a
place of my own someday. Nothing big, just a little place somewhere by the
beach.”

“That

s
a good dream,
” he says. When I look
up his frown is gone and his eyes are smiling at me.

“It is. And I was on my way to get it, too. I have an internship lined up
in San Diego at a hotel in Coronado. They have the best pastry chef there. That

s my favorite thing.” I smile. “Pastries. They
called me today and said the internship requires rotations throughout the
hotel. Including lifeguarding the pool.” I look up at him and he frowns, then
understanding crosses his face.

“And you can

t swim.”

“I can

t swim,” I mutter.

“Just have someone here work with you. I

m sure this place has plenty of resources. That
swimming instructor that walks around here. What

s his name…”

“Tyler,” I say with a sad smile. “He

s leaving tomorrow until the spring.”

“Hm. I see.” He frowns.

“I was so close. I have been interviewing for this internship for almost
a year. It could lead to a job there afterwards. I have saved every penny I
made so I can rent an apartment. I thought of everything… Now this.”

“You

re not giving up, are you?” His
frown deepens. I glare up at him. His comment stings. I

m not a quitter.

“Of course not, but didn

t you
hear me? I can

t fucking swim. I get a panic
attack if I so much step inside a pool.”

His eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Um. You are sitting in one right
now.”

“It

s different.” I shake my head.
“A Jacuzzi is just a bigger version of a bath tub.”

“So is a swimming pool.” He tilts his head to the side in that way. I
have to look away.

“I can

t,” I mutter. “It
’s just
… different, okay?”

“Did something happen to you? Why are you afraid of water?”

I don’
t
look at him. I just stare at the steam raising from the surface as the memory
barges in my head. Panic lances through me and every one of my muscles tenses
at once.
‘I

ve got you.

Tango

s voice
echoes clear in my mind.

I won

t let
go, I promise.

Tears
swim in my eyes.

“I fell in a pool when I was young. It was dark, cold. So cold.” I pick
up my knees and hug them, the chill expanding from within. I squeeze my eyes to
shut out the memory. His hand startles me as it wraps around my arm.

“I

m sorry. It

s alright now.”

When I look up he

s right next
to me, his eyes warm. For the first time I notice they are not a solid brown.
Speckles of green and a gold spread out from his irises, like sun rays. They
are beautiful. “I

m screwed,” I whisper, unable
to look away.

BOOK: Intercepted
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