Authors: Deborah Fletcher Mello
Twelve days isn't nearly long enoughâ¦
Vanessa Harrison's holiday spirit goes from humdrum to armed and dangerous when the filmmaker becomes an eyewitness to a crime. Spirited away to a Caribbean hideout for her safety, she isn't prepared for her instant attraction to gorgeous, take-no-prisoners FBI agent Kendrick Boudreaux. On Pleasure Islandâwhere every sensual fantasy is fulfilledâher vow to never trust another man melts in the heat of Kendrick's sizzling embrace.
Kendrick must keep Vanessa safe. But in his protective arms, desire ignites, and soon they're giving in to their deepest passions. Now he's determined to turn their days of pleasure into a lifetime of bliss. Until a shocking revelation threatens their future together, forcing Kendrick to choose between his career and the woman he has come to cherishâ¦.
Vanessa suddenly kicked her legs in the water, splashing them both. “Let's go!” she exclaimed, moving onto her feet.
Kendrick looked up at her. “Where?”
“You still owe me, and I'm ready to collect.”
He laughed. “You still haven't told me what you're claiming.”
“I guess then you need to get up and come on,” she said, her hands falling against her thin waist.
He shook his head. “Now I'm scared.” He lifted his legs out of the pool of water and stood up. As he came to his feet, Vanessa took his hand and pulled him along behind her.
She led the way down the stone path toward the beach. The sky above was blue-black, just the shimmer of moon and twinkling of stars lighting the ground in front of them. When they reached the edge of the water, she turned toward him, a wide grin across her face.
Kendrick eyed her curiously. “What are you up to?”
“We're going skinny-dipping,” she said matter-of-factly.
Kendrick hesitated for a brief moment, and his eyes widened in disbelief. He cocked his head ever so slightly as he stared at her. “I don't think that's a good idea, Ms. Harrison.”
She laughed. “Get your clothes off, chicken. You bet, you lost, I won and I'm collecting.”
His head was waving from side to side. “We need to talk about this.”
“Anything I want. Isn't that what you said?”
He laughed. “I did say that.”
“Then drop 'em,” she said, pointing to his shorts.
She reached for the hem of her tank top and proceeded to pull the garment up and over her head.
DEBORAH FLETCHER MELLO
has been writing since forever and can't imagine herself doing anything else. Her first romance novel,
Take Me to Heart,
earned her a 2004 Romance Slam Jam nomination for Best New Author. In 2005, she received Book of the Year and Favorite Heroine nominations for her novel
The Right Side of Love,
and in 2009 won an RT Reviewers' Choice Award for her ninth novel,
Tame A Wild Stallion.
With each new book, Deborah continues to create unique story lines and memorable characters.
For Deborah, writing is as necessary as breathing, and she firmly believes that if she could not write she would cease to exist. The ultimate thrill for her is weaving a story that leaves her audience feeling full and satisfied, as if they've just enjoyed an incredible meal. Born and raised in Connecticut, Deborah now considers home to be wherever the moment moves her.
Twelve Days of Pleasure
Deborah Fletcher Mello
I love that with each new book I am challenged to do better than the last story. It's why I
the Boudreaux family. They stand firmly on a foundation of faith and family. Not without flaws, they are also perfection as much as the words on a page will allow. Kendrick and Vanessa gave me a run for my money. But like his siblings, Kendrick Boudreaux wasn't afraid to simply be the man he was raised to be and Vanessa loves that about him.
I continue to be humbled by your support. I appreciate you more than words can ever express. So, thank you! Thank you for all that you do to show me, my characters and our stories your love.
Until the next time, please take care of yourselves and may God's many blessings continue to be with you.
With much love,
Deborah Fletcher Mello
To MeeMi's beautiful little angel,
Micaela Susie Mello
You are my heart and your granny loves you
more than you will ever know!
endrick Boudreaux took a breath, and inhaled deeply. There was a chill in the morning air and he could feel his lungs burn from the cold as they expanded. He continued to run, his long legs carrying him down the Broadway Street sidewalk. The uptown historical district was still an area of mixed residential and small commercial properties, with a wealth of 19th-century architecture, and he smiled as he reflected on his surroundings. Coming back to New Orleans always felt good and as he came to an abrupt stop in the driveway of his family home, he hoped that this time he'd be able to spend more than a week there before business sent him in another direction.
It was still dark out, no hint of morning sunshine to be found yet. Above his head, the periodic street lamp lit his way. His breathing was labored as he fought to catch his breath. He ran daily, at least ten miles, and usually the task didn't feel quite so difficult but the morning cold was unforgiving. Just days earlier he'd been running through Iten, Kenya, the temperatures in the high seventies, his heels kicking up dry dust as a bright sun shone in a deep blue sky. His tenure with the Secret Service had afforded him perks few could imagine.
He inhaled deeply, taking a series of deep gulps as he used the spare key hidden beneath a flowerpot close to the door and entered his family's home. The house was still quiet, most of his family sound asleep. It would be at least another hour before anyone else would be stirring. They had a long day ahead of them and it would be starting earlier than most would have liked. Kendrick was used to odd hours so nothing about the time disturbed him.
As he eased through the mudroom into the open family space he found his sister Maitlyn sitting at the kitchen table. She sipped on a large mug of coffee as she scanned her electronic tablet. She tossed him an easy smile as he dropped into the seat at her side.
“Good morning,” Maitlyn whispered. “You're up early.”
He shrugged. “Needed to get my run in before I have to put on that monkey suit.”
She shook her head. “Well, I appreciate you being here to wear that monkey suit.”
Kendrick smiled. “Where else would I be?”
With raised eyebrows she cut an eye in his direction. He chuckled softly as he stood back up and moved to the refrigerator. Swinging open the door he peered inside.
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” Maitlyn asked.
“No. I'm trying to eat a clean diet. Cutting out the caffeine. You can make me a green juice smoothie if you want.”
Maitlyn laughed. “I guess you missed the memo that said I'm getting married in a few hours.”
Kendrick laughed with her. “Oh, I got the memo. But I know how much you like to be in control so I figured I'd give you something to do.”
“Well, I don't need one more thing on my list. Make your own damn smoothie!”
Minutes later the two sat side by side, relishing their quiet moment together. Kendrick sipped his organic drink as Maitlyn helped herself to a second cup of coffee. He was in awe of his eldest sister, her calm demeanor feeling out of character for a woman who was just hours away from marrying the man of her dreams. He knew that had it been any one of his other sisters they would have been biting nails and pulling out their own hair. But Maitlyn didn't seem the least bit fazed. He couldn't help but think back to the previous year when she had met the man she would soon be marrying.
Zakaria Sayed was his best friend and the two men had been partnered together when both had been recruited for a covert division of the Secret Service. They were a consortium of global enforcement whose work was occasionally extreme, sometimes dangerous and always clandestine. Kendrick had been recruited from the FBI. His friend Zak had been with Interpol, bringing a wealth of international experience to the table. From day one they'd been fast friends and Kendrick trusted the man with his life, and now, more important, he trusted him with his sister.
Last year, Zak had become involved with Maitlyn while he'd been on a mission and she'd been on vacation. Maitlyn had gotten herself tangled smack-dab in the middle of some serious mess. When she'd been abducted and left for dead, his and Zak's mission to find her had further cemented their friendship. But everything that happened had put a serious crimp in her romantic relationship, one that Kendrick had feared neither would be able to rebound from. But as his mother had often said, fate had sealed the envelope on the love those two shared.
Reunited at his family's New Year's celebration, the couple had been virtually inseparable from that moment on. Claiming semiretirement, Zak hadn't accepted any assignment since that took him away from his desk, refusing to put himself, or Maitlyn, in harm's way. Zak would soon be his brother-in-law and as the best man, Kendrick was going to ensure the two walked down the aisle without mishap.
“Hey,” Kendrick said, breaking the silence. “When you get back from your honeymoon, would you do me a favor, please?”
Maitlyn met her brother's gaze. “What do you need?”
“There's a house that's listed for sale on Fontainebleu Drive. Would you check it out for me?”
“Is that the pied-Ã -terre with the guesthouse in the back?”
“Is it cream-colored with a wide porch and a narrow driveway along the side?”
She nodded. “I think the color's more eggshell than cream.”
Kendrick gave her a daft look as a pregnant pause swept between them. He blinked, batting his thick lashes at her.
Maitlyn chuckled. “I'll check it out. Are you thinking about settling down? Maybe quitting and getting a normal job?”
Kendrick shot a quick glance over his shoulder. “As far as anyone is concerned I have a normal job, thank you very much. But I am thinking about putting down some roots. It's hard to maneuver things living in your parents' home.”
“Like you live here. What's it been? Three months since the last time you were home? And if you stay forty-eight hours I'd be surprised.”
He shrugged, his broad shoulders pushing toward the ceiling. “It's still hard to maneuver things.”
“Which means you're giving up caffeine but not the sex and rock and roll.”
“Exactly, so I need me some space to do me.”
Maitlyn shook her head. “You really need to settle down.”
“You're starting to sound like our mother.”
“Our mother is a very wise woman.”
“Yes, I am,” Katherine Boudreaux responded from the doorway. She moved into the room and kissed him and then Maitlyn. “What are you two doing up already?”
Maitlyn hugged her mother back. “I couldn't sleep. I took a quick nap and then tossed and turned for an hour. Figured I'd just get up and double-check all of my lists.”
“You worry too much,” Katherine said. “That's why you hired a wedding planner, remember? So someone else could worry.”
Maitlyn rolled her eyes. “It's not the wedding I'm worried about. I was going over everything that has to be done for Thanksgiving.”
Kendrick shook his head. “That is next week, isn't it?”
Maitlyn nodded. “It's Thursday and everyone is going to be here. Mom wants to cook all of our favorite foods and the Sunday after, our brother wants to baptize the twins. Then we have to get ready for Christmas. We're all going to Texas. Everyone's staying at the Stallion ranch and there's a ton of preparing that needs to be done. I have a lot of lists!”
“And why are you up?” Katherine asked, dropping a warm palm to his shoulder.
“I had to get my run in before the day started.”
“You need to get some rest, too. You both don't take nearly enough time for yourselves.”
“I'm sure Zak will make sure Maitlyn gets some rest soon,” Kendrick said.
His mother nodded. “And what about you?”
Kendrick grinned. “You worry more than Maitlyn does, Mom.”
Katherine shook her head. Before she could respond his sisters Tarah and Katrina moved into the space, greeting them all warmly.
“Good morning, family!” Katrina Boudreaux-Stallion chirped, her toddler son sitting against her hip.
Matthew Jacoby Stallion, Jr., grinned, reaching his arms out for his grandmother. Katherine wrapped him in a warm hug, kissing his full cheeks. “How's Grandma's baby?” she cooed.
“Jake is wide-eyed,” Katrina said as she handed the child over then reached for the coffeepot. “He got eight hours of sleep.”
“Who gets married this time of the morning?” Tarah whined. “It's too early!”
“It's not too early,” Katherine said as she leaned to give her youngest daughter a hug. “It will be a beautiful ceremony.”
Tarah rolled her eyes skyward as Jake reached for her head. The baby tangled his chubby hands in her hair and pulled with all his might. He giggled, his antics tickling his spirit.
“Ouch!” Tarah exclaimed as she tried to detangle herself from her nephew's grasp.
Kendrick moved onto his feet. “I'm going to leave you women to it.”
“Where are you going?” Katrina questioned as she took the first sip from her coffee mug.
“I'm headed back to the hotel. I need to get the groom to the church on time.”
Tarah suddenly gave him a curious look. “What are you doing here, anyway? I thought all the men spent the night at the hotel?”
Kendrick gave her an eye roll. “They did but I had to get my morning run in.”
“So you ran home?”
Maitlyn and Katrina both laughed.
“Leave your brother alone, Tarah,” Katherine admonished.
Maitlyn grinned and moved onto her feet. “Do me a favor, Kendrick,” she said as she walked into the other room and back, carrying a small box in her hands. “Once Zak gets his tux on would you please give him this for me?” She passed the small box into his hands.
“What is it?” Kendrick questioned as he shook the container between his palms.
“None of your business,” Katherine answered for Maitlyn. “The bride asked you to give her groom a present. You get to see it after he does.”
Feeling slightly foolish, Kendrick shook his head. “It was just a question,” he muttered, scowling.
“Git,” Katherine said, waving a dismissive hand in his direction. “We all need to get moving,” she said, taking a quick glance toward the clock.
Kendrick leaned to kiss Maitlyn's cheek. The two locked gazes and Maitlyn smiled brightly at him. “You know I'm happy for you, right?” he said softly.
His sister nodded. “Make sure my guy doesn't get cold feet, okay?” she whispered back.
Kendrick smiled as he moved toward the door. “I'm on it,” he said. “You know I won't rest until the job is done.”
* * *
“Zak, do you take Maitlyn to be your lawful wedded wife, to love and cherish her in sickness and health, till death do you part?” the minister questioned.
“I do, sir,” Zakaria Sayed said, his expression beaming with sheer joy. “I most certainly do!”
Maitlyn smiled, a tear stealing past her lashes. The beautiful couple had chosen the Oak Alley Plantation, on the banks of the Mississippi, to exchange their vows. They stood beneath the canopy of the oak treeâlined path, the first hint of the morning sun beginning to rise in the distance. The family had gathered on the lawn of the antebellum manor just after six o'clock in the morning for the intimate sunrise ceremony and Kendrick thought it had to be the most amazing thing he'd ever been witness to.
The morning air was comfortable, the last of the late-night chill keeping the rising Louisiana heat at bay. Maitlyn wore a simple knee-length sheath dress of white crochet lace over satin and three-inch heels the color of a rich cabernet. Her hair had been brushed into a loose chignon adorned with pearl combs tucked into the strands. Her bouquet was a mix of English tea roses in varying shades of orange. Her sisters, Tarah, Kamaya, and Katrina, and Zak's sister Myriam flanked her left side in simple maxi-length dresses with three-quarter-length sleeves. The floral print, in fall shades of oranges, yellows, reds and browns, was muted against an ivory background.
Kendrick and his brothersâMason, Donovan, Darryl and Guyâstood beside Zak, the men wearing dark brown linen suits with white dress shirts opened at the neck and orange tea rose boutonnieres. As a family, they were beautiful together; as a wedding party, they were stunning.
As the family's minister pronounced them husband and wife, the first rays of the morning sun hit both their faces. Light peeked beneath the tree-lined blanket to kiss their cheeks. The small gathering of family and friends erupted in cheers. Minutes later everyone followed as the couple led the way to the veranda of the plantation home, where a morning spread of breakfast foods was laid out for the reception.
In the midst of the celebration Kendrick lifted a glass of champagne and orange juice to toast the couple. “First, on behalf of our parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mason Boudreaux, and Zak's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hassan Sayed, we want to thank all of you for getting up before dawn to be here with us this morning. Only my big sister could manage to get people out of their warm beds so early on a Saturday morning and have y'all looking good while doing it!” He paused and smiled back at the beaming guests.
“There comes a time in everyone's life when they meet their one true love, their soul mate, the person who is going to love them for the rest of their life. That moment came for Zakaria ten years ago when he met me.” Everyone laughed as Kendrick tossed his friend a wink of his eye. Maitlyn shook her head from side to side as he continued.
“Zak and I didn't become friends overnight. We had to go through some things before we learned to trust each other. It wasn't until he took me home to meet his mother and she made me her famous
, a decadent orange-almond pastry, that I knew he and I would be buddies for life.” Kendrick grinned as he leaned over to kiss Mrs. Sayed's cheek. “To be asked by Zak today to be his best man is an honor, but it's also honorable of him, because he's finally admitting to all of you today that I truly am the best.”