Authors: RG Alexander
She stepped away from him. “I should let you get some rest. Miguel told us you were traveling on business. Jinny and I will leave first thing in the morning.”
“Don’t,” the command was subtle, but she could hear it. “I apologize for offending you, Alicia, but after tonight’s revelations I could use the company. Don’t go just yet. Please, sit down and talk to me.”
He gestured to the long rawhide couch that lined the far wall of his office. “For my aunt’s sake, I’d like to know more about his life in New York. Tell me how he and Jinny met.”
She was walking toward the sofa before she could think of a way to reject his suggestion. But then it wasn’t a suggestion. Nothing he said seemed to be. As a rule she hated men who were too sure of themselves, too bossy and used to getting their way. But he wasn’t like that at all. He was…
An irresistible force. Irresistible. That was the right word.
Alicia sat down and reached up to rub her shoulder absently, feeling the pinch the shower hadn’t quite worked out.
He noticed. “Are you hurt? I grabbed your wrist before…did I injure you?”
“Not at all.” She smiled ruefully as he sat down beside her. “I came back from the store yesterday with a flat tire. I think this happened when I was tightening the lug nuts back into place. It’s fine.”
“What’s a tiny thing like you doing changing a tire alone?”
Alicia rolled her eyes. “What is that kind of question doing out of the nineteen-fifties?”
Tracy held out his glass with a chuckle, raising one eyebrow when she hesitated. “My way of apologizing to the women of the world, particularly all those in my family who would have me tarred and feathered if they heard me say it. Lightweight or not, a taste of this will help relax your muscles. Drink.”
Alicia took it, unable to look away from him when she took a sip of the strong whiskey. When she coughed in reaction he took it from her and set it on the table, patting her back lightly before taking her shoulders in his hands and turning her to face away from him.
“Mr. Reyes, what are you doing?”
She bit back a moan when his strong fingers pressed into her sore muscles. “I’m ensuring the comfort of my guests, Ms. Bell. You are the aunt of my future cousin. I wouldn’t want it to be said I didn’t do everything I could to make you feel better. While I do have a hot tub outside that would do the trick, you will have to be satisfied with this. I’m not willing to wait for the story of Jinny and Miguel.” Her chin dropped to her chest and she gasped when he rubbed the exact spot that was causing her pain. “Do you want me to stop?”
She should. She didn’t know him. It was strange and totally inappropriate and it felt absolutely wonderful.
want him to stop? God, no. She shook her head mutely, unable to react normally with his hot, rough hands sending electric zings and shivers through her melting body.
“You could do this for a living.” She couldn’t remember the last time anyone who wasn’t being paid by the hour had given her a massage.
“Thank you. Now tell me how they met.”
How could she think? It felt so amazing she couldn’t bring herself to care that a stranger was touching her with more intimacy and skill than she should be allowing. He was that good.
He was also, it turned out, an amazing listener.
She found herself telling him more than she meant to. That Miguel was Jinny’s boyfriend in high school, one she’d tried to dissuade her sister from dating since he’d just gotten out of a short stay in juvenile detention and his friends were all troublemakers and criminals. She knew from Jinny that his father had abandoned him and his mother was always working, but feeling sorry for him didn’t mean she was okay with him sneaking into her sister’s bedroom or following her home from school. They’d broken up for a few years, but on Jinny’s nineteenth birthday he’d shown up with flowers, a full time job and an apology for his past misdeeds. Her sister had fallen all over again.
A few months later Jinny dropped out of her first semester of college. A few months after that Alicia got a phone call telling her Jinny and Miguel had eloped. Four months ago her pregnant sister had left her with a tearful goodbye before getting in her husband’s beat up truck and moving to Colorado where Miguel had been offered a better job outside of the city and away from their crime-ridden neighborhood. Despite all her efforts to stay in touch, she’d hardly heard from Jinny again until last week.
His hands stilled on her back and she sighed in disappointment and relief. She hadn’t wanted it to end, but he was making it very difficult for her to concentrate. “I think, Alicia Bell, that I am destined to offend you again.”
Only because he’d stopped massaging her. “Why do you say that?”
She started to turn back around but froze when she felt his fingers playing lightly with her long braid. “I’m thinking of the best way to put it. You’re a teacher. Do you like Shakespeare?”
“Of course.” She closed her eyes, focusing on the sensation. Why did that feel so good?
His voice was low. Hypnotic. “For never was a story of more woe…”
A giant quoting Shakespeare. This had to be a dream. “Romeo and Juliet?”
His knuckles brushed the nape of her neck when he gently gripped her braid. “From your story, they fell for each other in high school,” he murmured. “All teenagers in love cast themselves as star-crossed lovers with the world against them. One word of caution, even with the best intentions, proves the illusion true.”
Her head tilted back instinctively, as if giving him permission to continue. “I’ll concede the point in general, because I’m faced with that truth every day at school. But Jinny is an adult now. A married adult with a baby on the way.”
“So it’s a habit. You, obviously trying to protect her from making a mistake, her, pulling away each time you try.”
There was something seductive in his voice that didn’t match his words and she had the disconcerting feeling that there were two conversations happening simultaneously. One about her sister…and one that was entirely unspoken.
The unspoken chat was sending heat through her body and making her tingle. She focused on talking instead. “You’re saying I should stop telling her to leave even though she’s obviously unhappy and she deserves better.”
His fingers were still curled around her thick braid. Just that. No stroking or pulling. Just the warmth of his hand on her hair. The weight of it. “I’m suggesting a temporary cessation. Let me have my talk with Miguel. Let Jinny go to our doctor, who has delivered a whole generation of Reyes with great success. Let my aunt meet her daughter-in-law and pamper her as I know she will. Stay and watch and offer your support, at least until the baby arrives. I have a feeling, close as you are to your only sister, that you would never forgive yourself if you missed it. And who knows? Without the habit of fighting you to lean on, Jinny might decide to return with you on her own. At the very least, she will receive better treatment than she has since she arrived and you’ll be able to enjoy each other’s company.”
It was a crazy conversation to be having with a stranger, but still it all made perfect sense. Reverse psychology. Alicia laughed softly, turning her head to look at him over her shoulder and swallowing hard when his hand tightened on her hair. “Shakespeare. I can’t believe I let a Colorado cowboy win an argument with a sneaky massage and Shakespeare. I don’t even like Romeo and Juliet. I’m a Puck fan.”
“Did I win the argument?” His smile was a study in sensuality. “I hadn’t noticed. And it’s not my favorite either.”
“No?” It was getting hard to focus on the words when all her attention was centered on that strong grip. Wondering what he would do next. “I bet I can guess which one is.”
His gaze was fixed firmly on her lips. “Please do.”
Her chuckle was breathless. “You’re a guy. If it’s not Julius Caesar it has to be Taming of the Shrew. What’s not to like about a man driving a woman so insane she’s willing to kneel at his feet?”
He tugged on her braid, making her gasp before letting it go. “You read my mind.”
Alicia Antonia Bell. Teacher at an underfunded and overpopulated middle school in New York City. No parents. One sibling. No priors. Single.
Tracy leaned back in his desk chair and studied the report his efficient relative had sent him an hour after he’d put in the request. It included a copy of Miguel and Jinny’s marriage certificate, and the obituary of Mr. and Mrs. Bell dated nearly ten years before.
But it was Alicia’s name he kept returning to.
She was the kind of woman who wouldn’t appreciate his prying, but he made no apologies for being thorough. Every woman and business associate in his life was given the same treatment to protect his family from the grifters of the world. The ones he knew from experience were out there. The Teflon Cowboy moniker had been earned by having the sense to look before he leaped. A lesson he’d had to learn at great cost to his pride and his family’s fortune. A lesson the brilliant Peter Faraday could learn if he cared to.
Two beautiful blondes in distress showing up in his house with a sad tale and an unborn Reyes was suspicious. He’d be an idiot if he hadn’t looked into it.
On the other hand, he’d be an ass if he requested more information on her now that he’d verified her story. He would rather take the direct approach and discover all her secrets on his own.
He was trying. But he’d be damned if he could recall the last time he’d had to try this hard. It was why he’d said goodnight more firmly than he’d intended a few hours ago. He knew it had seemed abrupt to her but he had to put on the brakes before he scared her. And he could have scared her. He hadn’t wanted to stop touching her, hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her wrapped in nothing but a towel. About seeing her wrapped in rope or, better yet, nothing at all.
He’d taken one look at her big, deep-set blue-gray eyes, the freckles scattered across her cheeks and her lush pink lips and felt like he’d been kicked in the gut. The attraction was instantaneous. When her long hair—so pale it was more the color of moonlight than the sun—had spilled out of the towel and touched the floor? He’d wanted to tie her up with it and fuck her, right there in the living room.
It was a stronger reaction than any he could have prepared for, but he’d managed to keep his distance. Until Alicia had come down with her delicate skin all covered up and her pale hair braided in a winding rope down her back.
It wasn’t an exaggeration to say she reminded him of an angel. A good girl that might be shocked if she knew what he wanted to do to her. The kind of woman he usually resisted. The kind he avoided. But resistance had been impossible from the moment he’d walked in the door. He would have to make an exception.
Would she really be shocked by his desires? Surprised, maybe, but shocked? He tried to read her, but about this, he wasn’t sure. All kinds of people enjoyed all kinds of kinks without anyone being the wiser. But he’d touched her with purpose, and he couldn’t have asked for better responses to his casual commands, his massage. There was no practiced air to her reaction, no awareness of the game in her expression, just instinct.
attracted to him. He could feel it. It had thrown her off at first, and she didn’t quite know what to do about it, but it was there. And it hadn’t been easy for him to pretend he hadn’t seen it. To soothe her with harmless conversation when he wanted to kiss her instead.
She was a natural submissive, though obviously one without that much experience. If she had it, she would have recognized his actions for what they were. Alicia Bell was what she appeared to be—a strong, responsible, beautiful woman who would look perfect bound on her knees or bent over his lap.
He wanted to see that. Despite the voice is in head telling him to stay away, he wanted to know what it felt like to have her give herself over to him. He wanted to have her in a hundred different ways, but getting her to stay long enough to discover what she wanted would be a challenge with the current situation. She was focused on her sister, the baby, and his cousin’s epic fuck up.
Tracy would deal with that, because he wasn’t lying—family was important to him. He would solve that problem and find a way to negotiate the other obstacle. Seducing Alicia.
All thoughts of time alone and preparing for his future were pushed aside by the overwhelming desire he had to hear her cries of frustration and pleasure. To get wrapped up in all that glorious hair and feel her bare skin beneath him.
Tracy growled and pushed away from the desk, shutting off the screen and heading toward the back door. It was close to two in the morning, but he needed a long cold swim to clear his head and break this fever.
He was undoing buttons as he walked barefoot on the deck, loving the feel of the cool wood beneath his feet, the smell of the mountain air he’d missed more than he realized. Home. It always centered him, and it would help him hold on to his control now. He hoped.
He dropped the shirt behind him and was reaching for his buckle when he stilled, listening to the sound of rushing water. The hot tub was on. He moved closer to the railing slowly, allowing his eyes time to adjust to the darkness.
God, give him strength.
Had her shoulder still been hurting her? So much she couldn’t sleep and had decided to take advantage of his custom made hot tub?
His sexy little angel had been transformed into a siren by the water. Dressed in a white tank top and white cotton panties, she may as well have been naked. The thin fabric clung to her wetly as she leaned her head against the rim with her braid laid out behind her and floated, revealing the tempting handful of her breasts, the tight nipples that topped them and lower, the pale blonde curls between her slender legs. He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, trying to distract himself from the painfully swift arousal just seeing her like this had caused.
If he was the gentleman everyone believe he was, he would leave, but he couldn’t make himself move. He’d come across a water nymph, pale and ethereal and looking like she would break or disappear completely if he touched her. How could he resist the chance to watch her unseen?