Authors: Mia Carson
I felt almost giddy, not only from the cocktails, wine with dinner, and the sinfully tasty chocolate lava cakes for dessert, but from the wonderful conversation with Rob Greenburg and the fact that he had indeed agreed to read my screenplays and given me his contact information. I practically flew, which was why I must have teased Braden about being jealous without a second thought.
We stood by my apartment door, Braden’s eyebrows raised at my playful comment, and his soft lips twitched with a smile. Suddenly, I could hardly keep my eyes off those lips. The bottom one was especially plump, and I had the urge to pull on it with my teeth. His mouth moved closer and closer to mine, and his warm breath hit my cheek, which sent heat through my body.
My eyes flicked up to his, and I gasped at the intensity and desire that glittered in their blue depths. His piercing gaze moved to my lips, and I licked them in anticipation. I was utterly on fire and desperate for his mouth to be on mine. I didn’t care that he was my boss or a notorious playboy.
But the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs caused both of us to glance in that direction as a young couple climbed up and walked to their apartment just two doors down from mine. Braden stepped back as they passed, and we all smiled in greeting. I turned back to Braden, but the moment was gone.
“I’m glad you had such a good time tonight, Lexi. I’ll see you Monday.”
He was gone before I could reply, and I went into my apartment feeling empty and definitely unsatisfied. The exhilaration and drinks from dinner made me heedless of my own rules. I’d have to make sure our boundaries were re-set on Monday. We were traveling to Rio on Wednesday, and I had to keep everything strictly professional and not fall prey to the powerful attraction I felt towards this man.
“Please fasten your seatbelts and prepare for landing.” The pilot’s voice came through the private jet’s speakers as Braden, Keith, the head of the art department, Marissa, the director of
Hot on Her Heels,
descended into Rio. It was nearly midnight Brazil time, which was four hours ahead of Los Angeles.
The trip had been quicker than taking commercial airlines since those usually had at least one stop between, but it was still a long flight. Everyone was either asleep or tired from sitting for so long. I exchanged a look with Braden, who sat one table over in one of the plush chairs that also had plane safety belts.
Braden and I had talked Monday, after I’d told Clara and Beth about Friday night with the almost-kiss, and we both agreed never to cross that line. Our relationship would become far too complicated to have any kind of personal relationship outside of work, especially since we worked so closely together. We’d promised to act professionally and refrain from acting on any impulsive flirting or physical interactions.
However, as I watched him from my seat in the plane, my pulse sped up—not just from the fact that I was on my first trip outside the U.S., but from the hypnotic blue intensity of his eyes as they watched me from under thick lashes. I broke the gaze, buckled my seatbelt, and forced myself to smile at Marissa, who sat next to me.
I’d have to really keep my feelings for Braden in check in Rio since, on top of work and the excitement of overseeing the beginning of an actual film shoot, we’d be there until Sunday—four whole nights of sun, surf, and bathing suits, all after work, of course.
The two days after our late arrival in Rio on Wednesday had been hectic, and everyone took a well-deserved Friday night off. I’d worked hard overseeing the start of shooting
Hot on Her Heels—
which began in the streets of Rio and in an ocean-side apartment—and teaching Lexi the ins and outs of the actual filming process. I was ready for the break.
When Keith had asked me to go with him and some other guys to a hot beach dance club that night, I declined, earning a disapproving head shake from him. I didn’t care, though. All I wanted to do was relax in a low-key way, not go out for a wild Brazilian night of drinking, dancing, and random women. That was probably what my dad was doing at this very moment, come to think of it.
To be honest, all I really wanted to do was invite Lexi over and hang out in my hotel suite, which, like her room three doors down, overlooked the ocean, had a huge living room area, dining and kitchen sections, and a separate bedroom with a king-sized canopy bed. I’d bought some groceries so I could cook dinner that night to unwind. I forced myself to resist the temptation to text Lexi to join me.
Since the night of the celebrity dinner and the occurrence outside her apartment when we’d nearly kissed, I couldn’t stop thinking about Lexi. I fantasized about kissing those pink, full lips and raking my hands through her silky, dark hair. But after our talk Monday, when we’d agreed to back off and keep our relationship professional and platonic, I’d stuck to our deal. I had to stick with it through this trip and wait until she was ready for a relationship.
As I pulled the fresh ingredients out to make garlic shrimp over pasta tossed with tomatoes and basil, there was a knock at the door. With a frown, I put the garlic clove and knife on the cutting board and looked through the peep-hole before I opened my door. My stomach leapt when I saw Lexi, glancing nervously around. Had she ached to hang out with me and broken her resolve?
I opened the door with a tentative smile. “Hey, Lexi, what’s going on?”
She held up the brown paper bag in her hand. “Hey, Braden. Sorry to disturb you, but Marissa insisted that I bring you her set design plans for the beach-hut scene shooting in a few weeks. Oh, and she said to enjoy the wine.” Lexi rummaged through the bag and held up a bottle of Chianti with a wry smile.
“Oh, okay,” I answered as I wondered why Marissa hadn’t brought it herself or just waited until tomorrow—was she trying to set Lexi and me up? I clamped my lips together to suppress an amused smile and gestured for her to come in. “Thanks for bringing that. Come on in.”
I was supposed to behave, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this, not when it was handed to me. Besides, it would be nice to have a bit of friendly company for dinner, and some wine and conversation. Nothing more, of course. Lexi hesitated for a moment, then came in and put the bag on a table between the kitchen and living room areas. My eyes traveled down her long hair, which was partially up. The rest reached halfway down her back.
My gaze continued downward over her snug white t-shirt and the very small jean shorts she wore that hugged her rounded ass like a second skin and showed off her long, toned legs. Damn, even when she wore just a casual tee, shorts, and flat pink flip-flops, she was sexy as hell. As she moved by me, I caught the intoxicating scent of saltwater and a subtle floral perfume.
Easy there, boy
, I thought to myself as Lexi turned around and my eyes moved back up to meet hers.
You have to be professional and rein in the hormones or she’ll never trust you
Her eyes looked over my shoulder to the kitchen and back to me. They sparkled with curiosity. “So, you’re staying in tonight? Not out partying in Rio? I’m surprised.”
This was exactly why I had to keep my libido in check; so I could show her how she made me want to change my playboy ways and be my true self. I shrugged and grinned sheepishly. “Not really in the mood,” I told her as I reached for the wine from Marissa off the table. I took the bottle to the kitchen and uncorked the Chianti. Lexi followed me and eyed the ingredients I had out on the counter. “Actually,” I continued, “I don’t really go out all that much with Keith and the others.” I tried to sound nonchalant as I grabbed two wine glasses from the cabinets.
When she arched an eyebrow at me, I added, “Well, not much anymore. Seriously. I was just about to cook a shrimp pasta dish for dinner. There’s enough for two. You wanna join me?” I’d poured one glass, and the bottle was poised over the second glass as I awaited her answer.
Lexi looked from the ingredients on the counter to the wine, then up to me. “Okay, I’m actually starving. I didn’t get a chance to eat. Do you want some help? Just remember, I’m not a very skilled cook or anything.”
I poured the second glass of wine and tried to hide the huge grin that wanted to spread across my face. I handed her one glass and sipped from mine. “Not a problem. I could teach you a little, since I did have a private lesson with Chef Henri and all.”
She sipped her wine as well, placed the glass on the counter, and moved to the sink to wash her hands as she said, “Well, thanks. I’d love to learn some pro tips.”
Ten minutes later, after we’d put on some bossa nova music on my laptop to get in the Brazilian spirit, the skillet was full of garlic and sizzling shrimp and the water for the pasta was about to boil. The only thing left to do was chop the grape tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Lexi had watched me do everything as I explained what I was doing.
“Hey,” she said after she’d taken another drink from her wine glass, which was almost empty. “I think I’ve had enough verbal explanation. I’m ready to get in on the action now.”
My eyebrows shot up and a blazing heat coursed through my gut and pooled in my crotch. I could feel my face blushing hard as she laughed and grabbed a knife.
“I mean the chopping action, Braden,” she said with a teasing smile. “Hand me those tomatoes, and I’ll get working.”
I laughed nervously and placed a handful of washed grape tomatoes on the cutting board in front of her. “Let’s see what you got.” I used a playful tone and stood back to watch. The air between us had become increasingly thick with electricity.
I watched her try to chop one little tomato, but it slipped from under the knife onto the counter. “Whoops, let’s try that again.” She giggled, clearly a little tipsy. She tried for a minute and managed to cut some tomatoes, though not very smoothly or as small as they should be.
Without hesitation, I moved in behind her, my body only an inch from hers, and leaned forward to gently place my hand over her knife-wielding one. “Here, try to make it more rhythmic. Let me show you,” I said, my voice low and gravelly. I was an inch from pushing my crotch into her butt, and as I leaned in, my chest lightly touched her back and shoulders and my arms brushed against hers. I heard her take a sharp breath and felt her body grow still.
Lexi tilted her head to look at me out of the corner of her eye. “Uh, okay. Go slowly, though, I’m new at this.” The way she said it made me think she spoke about more than just chopping tomatoes—like she was trying to tell me she was new at other, more intimate, activities as well.
Was Lexi a virgin? That meshed with how I’d always sensed a certain innocence about her, and the thought of me getting to teach her not only how to cook but also about sexual endeavors got me hot and bothered beyond belief. Okay, now I was unquestioningly hard and stood close enough that my erection pushed against her gorgeous, plump ass through our clothes.
I didn’t back off. I smiled devilishly at her and guided her hand to carefully chop the rest of the tomatoes in a slow, sensual rhythm. “It’s okay. I’ll definitely go slowly,” I whispered hoarsely into her ear, which caused a shiver to run through her body. I was one second away from leaving the food and knife in the kitchen, stripping her down, and having my way with her.
For several tantalizing moments, we stayed like that, dicing the tomatoes to the beat of a bossa nova song playing in the background. Once they were all diced, I let go of her hand slowly as she turned around, still holding the knife. I had to step back from her so the knife point wouldn’t push against my chest.
Lexi’s eyes narrowed, though they were a dark, passionate green, and she lifted one corner of her mouth in a smirk. “I appreciate the lesson, Mr. Huntington, but I somehow doubt Chef Henri got that up close and personal during his instruction. Watch yourself.” She cocked her head and brandished the knife playfully.
I put my hands up in surrender, turned to put the pasta in the boiling water, and turned off the skillet with the shrimp. “Duly noted, Ms. Montgomery,” I replied as I turned back from the stove. “Now, if you please, just put the knife down and step away slowly.”
She tried to look menacing for another second, failed miserably, broke into a smile, and put the knife down. “Okay,” she agreed as she walked over and sniffed the garlic shrimp. “But only if we can eat this amazing smelling food and have more wine.”
Five minutes later, we sat across from each other at the little table with steaming plates of sautéed garlic shrimp over tomato-basil tossed pasta and refilled glasses of Chianti. Several bites into the meal, Lexi closed her eyes, moaned, and said, “Oh my God, this is seriously gourmet. Where did you learn to cook like this, Braden? It’s clearly not all from one lesson with that Henri guy.”
I’d paused mid-chew to stare at Lexi’s dark lashes laying on her cheekbones as she closed her eyes and moaned with pleasure at my food. Yet again, I had to ignore the wash of fire through my body. She opened her eyes and took a drink of wine while she cast her gaze towards me, her vivid green eyes dancing.
One thing was certain. I’d have to either rush to get Lexi out of here immediately after dinner or I’d be forced to take her right here on the table. We’d have a nice conversation while we finished dinner, then I’d quickly usher her out. I drank my wine and replied, “Growing up, my dad was always traveling, and he and my mom divorced when I was ten.”