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Authors: Delilah Fawkes

Lush Curves 5: Undertow

BOOK: Lush Curves 5: Undertow
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Lush Curves 5: Undertow (A BBW Erotic Romance)

 

By Delilah Fawkes

 

 

Gavin

 

 

The next two weeks with Aolani on board the yacht were some of the happiest days of my life.

In the morning
, I’d meet with the investors via teleconference, showing them the shoots, emailing proofs back and forth, and getting preparations completed for the Live Beautifully Gala coming up in Edinburgh. It was this moment we’d been preparing for, building up to—the moment where I’d know if I’d hit on the right thing to rocket the company to the stellar quarter we so desperately needed. The moment to know whether or not I’d made my father proud.

Thomas the photographer and I huddled up in my cabin, but I usually invited Aolani to these meetings as well, getting her take on the proof
s--her eye was truly something exceptional. I’d come to realize she was an invaluable member of the team, and despite the joy of just being near her, I knew hiring her was one of the best managerial decisions I’d ever made.

The nights passed in a intoxicating blur of deck parties with the crew, wine, hot
tubbing, and sensual evenings of holding Aolani close, of making love in my stateroom, each time more exciting than the last.

She was like a drug I couldn’t get enough of
. Her body never ceased to mesmerize me, but it was the way she submitted to me, the way she gave herself over to me so fully in the bedroom, despite the insecurities I knew she still carried, the way she let herself be free with me, to be the beautiful, sexy woman I knew she was, made me love her all the more.

And that was the thing. The more time I spent with Aolani, whether it was critiquing an ad spread, or burying myself in the delicious warmth between her legs, I felt like I was at home. It was a feeling that, as much as I loathed
to think about the consequences, could not be denied.

I loved her. And that was that.

But the last couple of days, as the shores of Scotland grew closer and the air grew colder, the memories came flooding back, unwanted, but still a constant companion. While Aolani slept next to me, all I could think about was the night Fiona was taken from this world.

If I allowed myself to love again, if I broke the promise I’d whispered over the waves that took the only other woman to ever capture my heart, what would it mean
for me? Would I curse what I had? Would Aolani be taken away from me, just like Fi?

And could I really stand to lose another, even if it meant bliss while I was with her?

I’d always thought it was too painful to ever risk my heart again, and in those dark moments, watching the way the moonlight from the port hole played over Aolani’s smooth skin, feeling the softness of her breasts grazing my arm as we lay together, I wondered if I was brave enough for this. If I was brave enough to risk being in love.

 

 

***

 

I
stood at the bow, waiting for the first sighting of the grey harbor that would welcome me home, my thoughts heavy on me like a fog, when a familiar voice startled me.

“A
re you excited to be coming home?”

Aolani moved next to me, her easy smile a ray of sunshine dragging me out of my reverie.

“Aye. It’s been too long. I haven’t seen my brothers in months.”

I thought of Malcolm
’s laugh, and the way Graham always clapped me on the shoulder like he wanted a fight, by way of a friendly greeting. The thought of sharing a pint with those two bastards again after such a stressful few weeks was like a balm for the soul.

“Are you close to your family?”

“I am. Well, to my brothers and mother at least. My father passed away years ago, leaving his business to me. My brother Malcolm is the eldest, but he is a bit of a wild man. He ran off to pursue his dreams of being a musician, if you can believe it.” I laughed, and Aolani smiled back. “But Graham is the youngest. Always getting into trouble.”

“It sounds like you miss them,” she said, looking at me with understanding eyes.

I wondered if she missed her cousin as much as I did my kin.

“They’re a couple of rogues, but they’re the best
a brother could ask for. Malcolm was going to be…” I stopped mid-sentence, my mouth going suddenly dry. I’d almost said
Malcolm was going to be my best man
.

“Was going to be what?”

“He was going to… going to be on tour this week, but he pushed the date back to attend my Gala.”

It wasn’t a lie, really. He had at that, changing his plans to sup
port his younger brother. Despite his problems, Malcolm was better than me in that way. Selfless and giving toward his family, always willing to spontaneously offer his friendship or a kind act, where I was more cautious. I envied that in him. That he could just let go like that.

Aolani turned toward the waves and lowered the sunglasses perched on her hair to cover her eyes.

“Well, if they’re anything like you, I can’t wait to meet them.”

I tried to force a smile, but the black cloud was back, filling my chest with an ache almost as
big as the ocean itself. Malcolm had been there when I’d bought the ring. He’d clapped me on the back and told me Fiona was too good for me.

And then later, he’
d sat by my side, his long arm tight around my shoulder as I wept, wild with rage and a despair I thought was larger than I could bear. So large I thought it would tear any man apart. But his grip on me had made me stronger.

But I was still here, still living, because of family like him, holding me together when I’d been coming apart.

I sighed and pushed my hair back away from my face, my brow furrowed as I searched for the shoreline.

 

***

 

 

Aolani

 

 

My jaw dropped as we walked through Old Town Edinburgh, the classic old buildings rising up like something out of a Medieval painting. We’d docked a few hours before, taking time only to freshen up before wandering off to explore the city.

The Gala was tomorrow night, and there was a sense of excitement in
the air surrounding the photography crew. Finally, their work would be displayed, hopefully to the approval by those who had hired them.

Sandra and Thomas had wandered off, taking Stephen with them, and Gavin and I were alone. He’d seemed strangely distant since that afternoon on board, but he insisted on giving me a
brief walking tour of his home. I walked beside him, my head turning this way and that, trying to memorize everything I saw.

He pointed out his favorite pub, the beautiful gardens on Princess Street, before gesturing toward the
unmissable castle, rising up above the city like something out of a dream. The quaint cobblestones and ancient buildings gave the place a storybook feel—a romantic air that made me feel at once in awe and also like a trespasser, too modern for such a place as this.

Gavin grew quieter, saying just a word or two at each place, his eyes making me wonder where his thoughts were, because they certainly weren’t here with me.

When we walked in the hotel where the Gala was being held, I looked over at Gavin, hoping to see in his eyes what was troubling him. His jaw was set, his hazel gaze far away, as if he was looking past the finery in the lobby, not seeing the opulence that surrounded us.

Something was definitel
y on his mind. He’d been quiet all day long. I felt a sense of foreboding, like the shoe was finally about to drop. Like the happiness I knew was short lives would come crashing down around me at any moment. I prayed I was wrong, but the nagging feeling wouldn’t leave me alone.

A man in a bellhop uniform came to take our bags, and Gavin absentmindedly tipped him.

“Gavin,” I began, but never got to finish my sentence.

There was a rough shout from across the
lobby, that sounded like “OY!” and Gavin’s head moved toward the sound. A darker haired version of himself was jogging toward us, arms outstretched, hair flapping like a wild man behind him.

My jaw dropped. But as he rushed toward us, I realized he wasn’t exactly like Gavin at all. He slammed into Gavin hard enough to draw a “whoosh” of air from his chest, laughing raucously. I winced at the impact, but
then noticed Gavin was smiling too, his eyes crinkling in that way I love, his laugh loud and genuine.

They slapped one another on the back as I watched, and I noticed the Other Gavin was lighter skinned where mine was golden brown from long days on
his yacht. Where Gavin’s hair was chestnut brown, this man’s hair fell in raven-dark waves and rough stubble shadowed his jaw. Bright blue eyes shone mischievously above a smile so much like Gavin’s, but with sharper incisors. He seemed almost wild. Dangerous.

A Fletcher
, but the dark version.

“Aolani, this mad devil is my brother,
Malcolm,” Gavin said, breathless with laughter. “Malcolm, this is Aolani Kahale.”

I gasped as he reached down and scooped up my hand in his, fingerless leather gloves caressing my skin in a way that wasn’t altogether unpleasant. He smiled his wolf’s grin at me, his eyes flirtatious.

“And how did a poor sod like Gavin ever win the heart of such a beautiful creature,” he said, lifting my hand to his lips.

His stubble brushed me, and I smiled, troubled by the brief stirring I felt at his touch.

Gavin frowned down at his brother. “She’s not… we’re not,” he said. “She’s my model.”

“Oh?”
Malcolm’s dark eyebrows raised. Then he looked back at me, smiling with renewed interest. “That’s good to know, brother.”

I stared back at Gavin, eyes narrowed, a mixture of shock and anger curdling inside of me.
His model? That was it? That was how he introduced me to his brother? After the days we’d spent together? The nights?

Malcolm wasn’t one of the crew. It wouldn’t have hurt Gavin’s reputation to tell him I was his.
Unless, of course, I wasn’t. Unless I was exactly what he said. Nothing more than an employee. A fling. Replaceable and utterly unimportant.

“Please to meet you, Malcolm,” I said, my voice so quiet it was almost a whisper, but it was all I could manage.
Then louder, “I’m going to go get some air.”

And then I was leaving, my sandals making a soft slapping noise as I headed out of the lobby into the cool air of an Edinburgh evening. I heard Gavin’s voice behind me, but didn’t look back. I needed time alone so badly, for the moment, thoughts of keeping my boss happy were gone.

Fuck him.

Fuck
him
.

My breathing was coming fast and quick, but it had nothing to do with the swift pace I set as I walked around the edge of the old stone building, wandering toward the darkening gardens beyond. I passed an older couple chatting on the back porch, holding hands in the fading light of the sunset, then a porter, sneaking out for a smoke, but I didn’t stop until I was hidden among the hedges and rosebushes filling the lush grounds.

When I was sure I was alone, I sat down on a stone bench and put my head in my hands.

Goddamn it, I
knew
he’d said he wouldn’t give his heart to me. That I was heading straight for disappointment and sorrow if I kept tumbling into his bed, but… well, now that the moment had arrived, I couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been.

I was nothing more to him than his model. His piece of ass while he’s on the road, and now that he’s home, I’m not good enough to be introduced to his brother as anything more than that.
Certainly not a lover. Definitely not a girlfriend or anything more.

A tear splashed down my cheek, and I shook my head.

“Stupid.
Stupid
.”

I hated that I was crying. Hated that I knew this would happen, and yet still felt it like a punch in the gut. What had just happened shouldn’t humiliate me, but here I was, shame coloring my cheeks and
a sadness settling on me, so heavy it made it hard to breathe.

I stood, brushing my dress off
and wiped my face, not wanting to be caught crying in the shadows. The sun was just dipping down over the horizon, and the garden was fully in shadow. The smell of roses filled the air, sweet against the tangy scent of cut grass and the crisp bite of the evening air.

I crossed my arms, holding myself for just a moment, willing myself to get it together before I had to go back in
side. Before I had to find my room, separate from Gavin’s, and get ready for dinner. Before I had to admit to myself what I knew I had to do.

I took a long walk through the grounds, ignoring the growing chill, hoping the wind and the dark would cool my anger. But countless minutes lat
er, I was still sick with disgust.

Disgust at the way I’d acted. Like I was a teenager again feeling the first bite of unrequited love.
Because, that was the real problem. As much as I tried to avoid it, I’d fallen in love with Gavin Fletcher.

BOOK: Lush Curves 5: Undertow
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