Damn him, Reese thought after she had returned to the party which had gravitated to the bonfire now that the sun had almost finished setting. Her lips still tingled from where Dallas had kissed them a few moments ago before she'd sent him packing.
But she hadn't wanted to do that at all, she'd wanted him to strip her right on the beach and for them to pick up where they had left off before their lives had gotten so damn complicated. She hated herself for wanting him like that, but the way she felt about him couldn't be disconnected so easily.
Not like it had been for him. But she couldn't give herself to him again as long as he saw her as why his cousin wound up in a wheel chair. Why did he assume so quickly that he knew how it had gone down when he knew nothing about what had really happened.
Of course he thought he knew everything and didn't even think that he could be wrong. That's why he'd come onto her like that. Well, he could go to Hell as far as she was concerned or as close to it as possible which was probably L.A. She had driven as far as she could go to get away with him and not totally lose connection with herself and her life. She had found something here that had led her to feel content and almost safe.
That had been shattered by his arrival, not to mention news that Rodrigo was out there somewhere wandering around after getting bail. She knew that he didn't have to move an inch, all he had to do was reconnect with his extensive network of hired hit men to hunt her down and finish her off. But she also remembered that Rodrigo had been the type of man to save the worst punishment for those who betrayed him and that he'd personally be issuing it out.
There could be operatives of his in town right now putting her under surveillance while he awaited the best opportunity to make his move against her.
His final move if she didn't get a plan going.
She didn't want Dallas back in her life and she didn't need his damn help not the way he had left things between them back in L.A.
Not as long as he thought the worst of her even as he'd just kissed her on the beach.
Reese didn't know where Dallas had gone when she had walked away from him, hopefully back in his car to head back to L.A. but she knew that wasn't likely. Oh yeah, he had just gotten that job with Adela to work in the nursery right alongside her. Her body tensed just at the thought.
"Hey, where'd you head off to Reese?"
She looked and saw Clover heading towards her with a beer in her hand.
"Did I miss anything?"
Clover shook her head.
"They're just about to light the bonfire and play us some music…you want to dance with anyone here?"
"Nah…I think I'll just sit and watch."
Clover looked around her.
"Not even that hunk of man who was here earlier," she said, "You know Dallas, the man that Adela just hired."
"Oh him…no thanks…"
Clover sighed while rolling her eyes.
"I know Adela's supposed to be like with someone but don't be surprised if she makes the moves on her latest handyman."
Reese unwrapped her light jacket and put it around her because it was starting to cool down.
"Really," she said, "You think she's interested?"
"Well, she's known for shacking up with the hired help so you'd better watch out if you're interested in him."
Reese waved a hand.
"Couldn't be less interested actually…I just left a bad relationship and I'm not interested in picking up another guy right now."
Clover's smile dimmed.
"Oh…I didn't know you had your heart broken…"
"Oh that healed…I'm just rethinking what kind of guy I'm attracted to before I take another dip in the current pool."
"Oh I get it…totally…take as long as you need…less competition."
"Sure…I think I'm going to check out what's up with the bonfire."
"Let's go find a good place to sit."
Dallas had walked back to the party where he met up with Randy who tossed him a beer. They talked for a few moments and he glanced occasionally over at the bonfire where he'd caught Reese talking with the other employee, Clover. His body still hummed from having kissed her but the desire that she had evoked in him still remained coiled up inside of him.
The magnetism of her which had drawn him into that kisses…a remnant of what they had shared in the past. When his skin had slipped beneath her top and caressed that silky smooth skin of her back…that had made him go hard because at first, she hadn't pulled away from him.
She only did that because he had made that comment in order to encourage her to keep kissing him. He had thought when she did that, and then they could dispense with the clothing and sink onto the sand, caught in an embrace while she opened up for him, like old times.
It hadn't worked out that way. And he knew that Rodrigo had been the reason because as hard as he tried, he couldn't ever forget that there'd been hours during that siege when he hadn't even thought about where she'd been. He'd been so focused on telling his cousin who lay with a gunshot wound in his back not to die on him, not to leave him after they had just reunited with each other after years apart. Vince, dressed in a blood stained tuxedo had been administering first aid on the son he had thought he'd lost forever until about a year ago.
His thoughts, his focus had been on not losing one of the few family members he had left in his life. But he found out later that when Reese had left him there, she'd been taken in the back of the house with the other female guests.
"We've got surveillance film of some areas of the house but we still hadn't watched them all," Brock had told him, "But when we asked her what she'd been doing that time, she didn't tell us."
So much of the siege that took place around him remained unknown because Reese hadn't been the only one not talking and all she said to him when he turned on her when he learned his cousin might never walk again, had been said in anger.
He had been just as overtaken with anger bordering on fury and had to keep his voice from rising while he methodically tried to extricate the details from her but then she hadn't run from him but had waited until he'd left town to hunt the men responsible for what happened to his cousin down.
He's been far away from her until now but somehow, he didn't feel any closer to her than he had been when miles had separated them.
Even though she had kissed him by the sand dunes, he knew she hadn't gotten any closer to him or him to her.
So he left the party and headed back to his car to return to the place he'd rented while he tried to persuade her to return to L.A. if for her own safety.
Reese tried to enjoy the bonfire but remained deep in her thoughts. Life had gotten so damn complicated when she had boldly crossed the threshold, the barrier between them and had wrapped her arms around him, drawing him against her.
When he had kissed her just then, a wave of heat had moved from her lips, causing her nipples to harden against her bra and a jolt had reached between her legs. She had remembered how it had been like with him, all those warm humid nights and lazy tropical afternoons. Back before she thought she hated him.
She sighed, running her hand through the sand which held some of the day's heat and watching the flames crackle up following a trail of thick smoke up into the night sky. It didn't drown out the cacophony of waves crashing on the rocky shoreline.
God what she'd give to go back to those times when they'd spent that one night on the beach, together. There hadn't been any fire because they didn't want to attract attention but they had found a secluded area where they had lain out a blanket and he had pulled her gently down into the center and slowly peeled every item of clothing off of her while his mouth trailed kisses where the skin became exposed to the night. They hadn't left that spot until the sun rose, and she'd watched him wake up beside her wrapped up in the blanket, his body still warming her own.
Then when they had walked back to the bungalow, they'd gotten the phone call on details of a mission they had accepted from Dallas's old college buddy, Brock. Since then, the whole world had turned upside down in ways she couldn't ever explain or the collateral damage would never end.
She hid a truth so carefully, the kind that could get a man killed, thus leaving the woman who loved him to face another kind of death.
Reese had gone back to her cottage after the bonfire. She had looked for Dallas before she left but he had disappeared. Maybe he had gone back to wherever he had been staying. She knew she had pissed him with how she had kissed him and then taken off but she really didn't care how he felt at this point.
If she hurt him maybe the better because then he'd hopefully stay away from her and get it in his head that she didn't need or want him but she had to look out for herself now.
She couldn't ever let down her guard now that she had two things to look out for, the menacing presence of Rodrigo out there somewhere, and also the arrival of Dallas.
She didn't know which one was more dangerous.
Rodrigo would torture her and kill her for sure. He might hire the best men to find her but he would handle her himself. She feared him but she didn't know if she were the highest on his list of priorities right now. He might have other people to go after first before getting to her but she had to keep her eyes open looking out for him.
Dallas was dangerous in an entirely different way…he had held a piece of her heart even before they had broke their carefully established protocol and made love. They should have stopped after that first time but no, they had been unable to keep their hands off each other. She had still felt that itch even as angry as she was with him right now, that tug to just grab hold of him and allow him to fill her.
She had turned on some fans but the cottage still felt quite warm, some iced tea would taste good right now so she went to the frig to get some to drink…then a shower would feel even nicer.
Dallas stayed in the bushes outside the cottage by the window in her bedroom. He had tried the area next to the kitchen but she had only been in there a moment to get something out of the refrigerator before heading out of the room. So he had gone to the area outside a bedroom window and made sure he wasn't visible, aided by the darkness, not to mention the shadows cast by some trees.
Then his eyes widened as she returned to the bedroom, and removed her shirt, without a care. Her curls fell back around her head as she cast the shirt aside, her brow furrowed as if in thought…and then he peered closer and saw her breasts, creamy and full as she turned slightly. He couldn't keep his eyes off of them, as the memories of how they had felt beneath his hands, overflowing and how those rosy tipped nipples had tasted….one time he had brought over some honey and had streamed some over them and then had licked every bit of it off of them…by the time he had finished, she had gripped the sheets and begged him to stop in one breath and then changed her direction the next.
They beckoned to him even as she didn't see him and he ached to mouth her nipples again, as they hardened. Then she walked out into what must be the bathroom. He realized what he'd been doing and silently slipped away from the bungalow to head back to his own place, knowing she at least made it home in one piece.
As pissed off as he might be at her, he wanted her to remain safe.
Reese disrobed and went into the bathroom, testing the water in the shower before getting inside of it. She soaped up quickly enough, covering her body before standing under the spray. Memories flashed before she could stop them of being pressed against a wall while a man held her hair, whispering harsh words in her ears. She had been too frightened to respond, her body just shivered as he told her what would happen.
Blinking her eyes, she concentrated on the heat of the water rinsing her body, the steam circulating around her in the enclosed space. She'd dry herself, get dressed and then head to bed to hopefully sleep and not dream.
If only the memories could be so easily cleansed…there were things that Dallas could never understand and she couldn't explain them to him. Miranda understood why and she needed to speak to her at her next appointment.
She toweled herself off and then ran another one through her hair, before allowing it to dry on its own. After she returned to her bedroom, she looked into her drawers and pulled out a pair of light sweats and a tee-shirt along with panties.
She slipped her panties on and then her other clothing before walking up to her mirror to comb her hair thinking about the barbecue and how nice it had been to hang out with some of the folks she had met and finally feel less than isolated. She could definitely see staying here for a while. Except…
Damn Dallas, for returning and damn him further for kissing her like that, in a way she wouldn't easily forget. She drew the comb carefully through her curls and wondered if she would be able to coexist with him if he decided not to head back to L.A. Getting him to walk away from her wouldn't come easily as he had put his foot down about keeping her safe not that she needed his help.
She could take care of herself and she definitely didn't need a guy around who viewed her as someone who couldn't handle herself in the field. No, she wouldn't do what he wanted, he could try and give it his best shot but in the end she wouldn't bend. After a while, he'd head back to L.A. his purpose unfulfilled. She thought to herself that sounded like a simple enough plan but damn her body trembled at the thought of his hands holding onto it while he laid one of those damn fine kisses on her. She felt herself start to weaken…and it hadn't taken long to do that.
Which meant she had to be careful, real careful not to fall back into his arms because all he could do the was hurt her as he had already done…because Dallas after all hadn't been the only one left feeling betrayed. She finished with her hair and then lay on her bed, without disturbing the sheets and picked up a novel to do some reading to help her sleep.
If Reese had known what Rodrigo had planned for her when he found her, she might have packed up and ran. No, she probably would have just run. But she lay in bed that night thinking of another man, the one who had followed her all the way up the coast and even got hired at the same nursery to keep an eye on her.
His rock hard body filled her mind right now, his muscular arms that had held her so tightly when they had gone at it hard and heavy from that first time…the danger had been there with them but for once, they had ignored it and gone with their feelings. But how long would it take for that to catch up with them, and when it did, she had a hard choice to make.
One of the hardest she ever had to make because it really hadn't been a choice. But damn if Dallas. could ever stand still enough to listen to her explain what she had to do and why… It made no sense and next time she crossed paths with Dallas., she would tell him that, the next time he had cross words with her, she would put him in his place. But part of her just wanted to wrap her arms around him and slide back into bed. That part of her she needed to work on, learning whether or not to trust the man who had walked away from her with her heart when she couldn't even trust him with her life.
She got up and boiled herself more water to steep yet another mug of chamomile tea which she brought back to her bed. After sipping it, she felt herself relax a bit but still that edge that had been stoked by Dallas.' arrival kept her from lowering her guard enough to drift back to sleep.
At the beach party, well down the shore from it, when they had kissed, oh she had burned for his hands to slip beneath her shirt and fondle her while she ground herself against him, like a cat in heat. Her body had almost carried through with that fleeting thought but she had reined in herself…just in time but damn, if she couldn't keep doing that, let it slip that he got under her skin, then she'd be lost in his arms again.
And probably regret it too.
No, she had done the right thing which was to keep her distance and her heart frosty to him…he'd figure out that he couldn't just drag her back to L.A. and then he'd leave her alone.
Alone to live her new life, up here staying in the cottage for at least a while, working in the nursery, a place no thug like Rodrigo would bother looking.
"He'll find you Reese …."
Dallas.' admonition reached her mind again, reminding her that if Rodrigo decided to come looking for her, he definitely wouldn't stop until he found her. But if that meant that Dallas. was sticking around, maybe she should be the one who left town so neither man could find her.
Dallas. lay back in his own bed in the cottage he had rented not that far from her own, he had left not long after he had gotten an eyeful of her undressed inside of her cottage. He had managed to keep watch over her without her knowledge, he knew that Rodrigo and his hired men were as likely to do the same…counting down the moments until they grabbed her without her being aware of her fate…until it would be too late.
No, he couldn't, he wouldn't allow that to happen. He'd stop Rodrigo and whatever or however many men he'd send to find her. He lay there as the fan circulated fresh salty air that had wafted through the open window, dressed only in his briefs.
An image had flashed in front of him of her dressed in her beautiful party dress, black and spaghetti strapped showing off her tanned shoulders. They had been at the party about an hour and she'd gone into the atrium to look at the tropical flower displays that made the enclosure appear almost as if it were a slice of wilderness. He had followed her in there and they had fallen into each other's arms. Kissing as their arms slid around each other's waist. They knew they should have never slipped away from the other guests but they couldn't help themselves.
Their interlude had been short, intense and left them breathing heavily against each other by its end as they adjusted their clothes. She kissed him then slipped away to freshen up before returning to the party.
That had been not long before Rodrigo and his men had made their move. The last moment that he had spent with Reese before everything had changed, and its memory haunted him now months later. The taste of her mouth against his, her soft hair, the way it had felt to slide his hands over her dress as she unfastened his pants. But what they had done had broken mission protocol, even though they had slipped back into their roles easily enough afterward.
But not seamlessly enough as it had turned out.
Rodrigo sat at his desk, for on nights like this he didn't sleep. His lawyer had warned him once again not to leave town but he had his own plans. His men had been spreading out their search for that bitch, and when they found her, they would give him a call.
He had promised a special bonus and a piece of her to the man who tracked her down. He'd take his own piece of her and then he'd tell her what he had planned for her. He had just gotten off the phone with Carlos in Brazil.
"You got any girls to send me," Carlos drawled, "I need some fresh meat for my clients."
Rodrigo smiled, knowing that the man managed one of his specialty houses, for the most elite clientele who'd pay the highest prices for the women that they used for the night.
"Yeah…I'm expecting a shipment of one of my best whores," he said, "The kind that doesn't know she's going to be one."
"Ah, one of those, well I'll have a special place for her down here."
Rodrigo sighed, imagining the look on Reese's face when she woke up from a drug induced sleep and found herself inside a special room they'd have prepared for her, wearing a whore's dress, with her legs spread wide open as the men lined up for her. Her eyes would widen, her mouth might scream, in a place where no one could hear her.
And where there was no escape.
He smiled just thinking about it. A fitting end for someone whose testimony could put him away.
He left his seat as he imagined what it had been like that night of the party. She had been beautiful, even if she hadn't wanted him. Well she would find out soon enough what would happen to those who messed with him.
He buzzed his phone and asked for the new arrival to be sent in to his suite and slipped out of his clothes, admiring his muscular build in front of the gold plated mirror. Not an ounce of fat on him, his life had left him with a razor sharp body. He never knew when he'd need to fight to keep his position now that he had ruled the narcotics trade for five years.
Soon the door opened and the woman with reddish hair and a body that filled out her negligee walked inside, just looking at him.
"What's your name," he asked.
"Violet…I just got here…I swear this isn't where I am supposed to be…they told me I'd get a modeling gig."
"You like to model Violet?"
She nodded shyly, her eyes still wide.
"Come here Violet, I've got something for you…"
She did after hesitating and he slid off his robe and stood before her, naked and she looked taken aback.
"Oh come now, you know that to be a successful model, you have to do certain things first…"
"I guess so…"
"So your first assignment Luke be to come right here and do as I tell you…"
She started breathing like she might hyperventilate, as she looked around the room for a way out but there was none except the French doors to the balcony which led to a long way down to the rocky shore below.
"I can't…I'm engaged."
"Were engaged…that won't work in this line of business Violet…now come here and get started…"
So she walked towards him, one step at a time and knelt before him as if she were at an altar to pray.
Smiling, he grabbed hold of her and she knew what came next.
She wasn't that bitch, but she'd do for now…and yes, it was a long way down from here.