At the sound of the sultry voice, Mitch Wulfrum jolted out of his lazy beach nap. His eyes flew open, and he beheld what could only be described as the outline of an angel against the blazing ball of the afternoon sun. With the remnants of sleep and now the sun’s strong rays blinding him, her face registered as nothing more than a shadow. But everything else about her, damn it, transmitted straight to his otherwise latent libido.
“You didn’t answer your door, so I took the liberty of coming down to the beach to look for you.”
“What… Who are you?” He stumbled to his feet and straightened, towering a good five inches over her. At six-three, he generally looked down on most women. This one wasn’t quite as small. With her long, fluid limbs and voluptuous curves, she stood much taller than he’d become accustomed to.
“I’m Kiona ’Alohi.”
. The name had some sort of aphrodisiacal affect on him, washing through his bloodstream like that first alcoholic buzz after slamming a stiff cocktail. And it certainly had a ring of familiarity to it. But with his brain suddenly hijacked into a state of sexual inebriation, he couldn’t quite place it.
She held out a slim hand, her bronzed island-girl tan making the red-painted nails look as appetizing and ripe as berries. His gaze trekked up her bare arm to narrow, feminine shoulders glistening gold beneath the sun. She wore a snow-white halter dress with a plunging neckline, the narrow strips clinging to bulging breasts. Mitch let out a low whistle when the faint outline of her brown nipples perked under his scrutiny and pressed like rock-hard pebbles against the cotton fabric.
Even though his loins began a steady, painful ache, he tortured himself by continuing his blatant inspection. His stare traveled down over her flat abdomen and rounded hips to her long, brown, lean legs. An image flickered in his mind of toned thighs clamped on either side of his head. Gulp.
He circled his watering tongue around in his mouth at the erotic image. For a moment, he could swear he tasted pussy, smelled its musky, sweet aroma. His hearing became muffled as if he’d become lost in the heaven between her legs.
“Okay…so you don’t have to shake my hand if you don’t want to.”
He’d just spied the scarlet-painted toenails peeking from beneath the straps of leather sandals when her clipped, Hawaiian-accented tone jolted him from his gawking.
“Oh, sorry.” It wasn’t a full-on handshake, but he took what he could, closing his fingers around hers just before she withdrew. Heat warmed his clammy digits as he held tight to soft female ones, their slim length melding into his firm grip.
“Mitch Wulfrum,” he provided as she removed her hand from his with a solid jerk.
“Yes, I know.” When she spoke again, his stare finally popped up to the heart-shaped face. She wore dark sunglasses perched on a small, feminine nose. He studied the lenses, delving deep—what shade would her eyes be?—when a sudden need to penetrate the hidden orbs overtook him. But all he could see was his own reflection.
“You know me?” Shit, why couldn’t he get out more than a two- or three-word intelligible sentence with this woman?
She let out a derisive chuckle. “Everyone knows who you are.” With that melodious laugh, dimples emerged on her cheeks. Her seductive, warm scent wafted on the briny sea breeze to tease his nostrils. The combination of the womanly aroma and the girlish dimples packed a powerful punch to his loins. He concentrated on the sound of swishing palms, the pounding of the surf—anything to keep the blood from rushing to his cock and embarrassing him with a schoolboy hard-on beneath the thin fabric of his swim trunks.
Mitch sighed as her blunt comment finally sank in. He was still uncomfortable with the fact that, as the son of a farmer from rural Kansas, he’d made it so quickly to stardom. “I guess everyone here knows me?”
She drew off the sunglasses and smiled thinly. Velvet. Her eyes were golden, velvety orbs outlined by the black fan of long, seductive lashes. They left him speechless, nearly causing his knees to buckle beneath him. But then he caught the unmistakable glimmer of annoyance in the amber pools, and he regained his balance. The outer edges of her perfectly shaped dark eyebrows angled downward, further emphasizing the cold glare beneath them.
“Here? You’re being coy, Mr. Wulfrum. Something I find odd and a bit unbelievable coming from a hotshot, box-office-hit movie star such as yourself—one who’s a permanent fixture within the glitz and glamour of that pompous bubble you call Hollywood. You know as well as I do everyone in this whole entire world recognizes Mitch Wulfrum on sight. What game are you playing with me? Didn’t Jager Manning tell you I’d be here to meet you today?”
At the mention of his publicist, everything fell into place. Through Jager, he’d vaguely known her name—uh, make that, he’d dismissed it like an arrogant bastard. But he wasn’t that
insensitive. Somehow, hearing it from her lips had made it sound like an entirely different name. Perhaps because of the accented way she’d pronounced it compared to the way he had read it on paper?
He groaned. “Ah, you’re that
woman. I, uh, wasn’t expecting you until this evening.”
He flinched at her incredulous tone. “Well, yeah. The one Jager set me up with. Right?”
“Right. That one.” Pursed lips bloomed like a bloodred, dew-dappled rose. The delicate jaw and high cheekbones made him long to cup her exotic face and inhale the bloom of her lips. “I already introduced myself to you. Didn’t Jager provide you with a name?”
He furrowed his brow. Of course. Jager had briefed him on the minor details in written form. But it hadn’t shown up within the documents in full color like the flesh and blood of her did. Mitch scanned her creamy bronze skin again, his fingers itching to touch the smoothness. Jesus alive, it wasn’t just flesh. It was tempting
He’d known—as had she—this wasn’t going to be a true marriage, so why expect him to obsess over the details? Now, had Jager attached a photo with the name, yes, that
would have helped brand her into Mitch’s brain for sure. He frowned. Had he been so insensitive as to not want to at least see a picture of the woman he was to marry?
“Yes, I guess he did.”
“Guess? Well, that sure is a relief,” she mumbled, then added a snort. “Me and this cockamamie plan—we must be very memorable. Which means you’re not as dense as I first thought.”
“Well, gee, thanks.” He ground his teeth together. He deserved to be cut deep by her sarcasm, because somewhere inside the celebrity he’d become, he knew his neglect of her made him appear to be an assuming jerk. It had been a long while since he’d faced that initial fast, hard ride to the top of fame, but he should always remember where he’d come from. As it should, the hot flare of self-irritation doused his ego with a cruel dose of reality.
She wasn’t the least bit taken by him or his star status.
The first primal attraction to this island goddess had been real, all right—if his rising erection were any indication. But it appeared it was all one-sided…or possibly she was a woman who’d paid little mind to the media’s heavy publicity with his last few hit movies or huge corporate endorsement ads. Despite the fact that he deserved her disinterest, something about it gave him the sense of being an annoying gnat buzzing around a blooming hibiscus.
And Mitch refused to ever go back to that pathetic way of life.
“Forget it,” she snarled. It seemed his sarcastic thanks proved to be her final straw. Kiona spun on her sandals in an effort to flounce away. But apparently the low spike heels weren’t meant for beach strolling. She gasped and teetered sideways, her shoulder slamming into Mitch’s chest when one heel sank into the grainy shore. Instinctively, he threw his arms around her curvy form, dragging her up to keep her from toppling into the surf.
She blinked, her mouth a fraction of an inch from his. “Whoa,” she murmured, and he caught her warm exhalation on his own lips. He sucked in a surprised breath, starving for more of her, for just one wet taste.
The annoyance of only moments ago faded, morphing back into total erotic sin. Mitch captured a new edge to her scent—unmistakable arousal. Her gaze softened behind a thin layer of determination, determination, he could see now, she’d erected to keep up her facade of indifference. Pleasure burst in his bloodstream, gratification of both the egotistical and the sexual sort. Her curves molded to his hard body like no other woman’s ever had. He knew by the flare of her eyes and the intake of breath that she could feel his rigid cock. Though he knew it bordered on arrogance, he’d thought to use his fame like a weapon, wielding it to tamp down the woman’s sauciness.
Yet her exotic beauty and cool resolve to remain unfazed by him—ah, but it had an irresistible power of its own, strong enough to deflect his wretched conceit.
And that, you dumb bastard, is a first
“Are you okay?” he whispered, acutely aware of her nestled against his throbbing shaft.
Her tongue snaked out to moisten her plump lips. He tortured himself further by imagining it lapping moisture from the tip of his granite-hard cock.
Stupid fucker. Don’t torment yourself with thoughts like that…until you’ve got her head in your lap
She winced. “I…I think I sprained my ankle.”
Mitch sighed wistfully, using all the theatrics of an award-winning actor. “I think I sprained my heart.”
Kiona’s complexion paled by two shades. Her tawny eyes flitted back and forth from one of his eyes to the other, just like his acting instructors had taught him in classes eons ago. Was she playing him for a fool, or finally enamored with him?
“Is that a lame line from one of your movies or something?”
Yep, she was playing him. “Definitely ‘or something.’ But I’d hoped you’d have watched all my movies and would know the answer to that already.”
She stiffened. “I don’t watch television or go to the movies. I do, however, read a lot.”
“Tabloids?” Mitch trailed his fingertips down her bare back, delighted when she shivered. Her skin was smooth, silky, warm against his flesh. He imagined tasting the length of her spine, wondered if her skin would be salty or sweet. He stopped his bold exploration when he reached the zipper at her waist, retraced his path back up, and pressed her closer so that her thinly clad breasts smashed against his bare chest. His other arm hooked around her hips and held her up a fraction of an inch off the sand.
Kiona rolled her eyes, the expressive look making something flutter in his chest. “No, of course not.”
He raised a skeptical brow.
“Well, I do flip through them when I’m waiting in line at the market. I don’t buy or subscribe to them, though, that I assure you.” She wiggled, apparently attempting to get her feet back on shore. When he easily prevented her escape, she narrowed her eyes, and a gleam of retaliation lit their sparkling depths. “But I couldn’t help noticing the rumor plastered across the front of Stars Gossip
. You know, the one about you possibly being…gay?”
Goddamn those fucking reporters.
He shifted his stance, seriously considering dropping her in a heap at his feet. “Well, I assure you I’m not gay.”
She grinned smugly, again revealing the charming dimples. They twinkled like two onyx gems on the bronzed planes of her cheeks. Sunrays glinted off the rows of perfect white teeth while her rich tresses tossed wildly in the wind. Instead of shoving against him as he assumed she would, she settled her arms around his neck and winked as she dragged the edge of her sunglasses over his nape. A pleasant tremor slithered down his back.
“Yes, something tells me you’re not gay…at least not completely.”
“Baby, you can bet all of Kabana,” he proclaimed, lowering his gaze to dip into her upthrust cleavage. “I’m one hundred percent straight. But how in the hell do you expect me to convince the billions of people on this planet after one tabloid decides to soil my good name? So what? I went to a party, got a bit wasted. When I sobered up, my head lay in some bisexual man’s lap, and an orgy pumped in high gear all around me. Needless to say, I got the hell out of that place, but the damn paparazzi seemed to have shaped the story into their own version in order to boost sales.”
“Your good name, huh?” She leaned back in the circle of his arms, seeming to ready herself for later flight. Her eyes glittered with dark mischief. “Well, it looks like you’ll be convincing them, all right. Having Jager hook you up with a woman like me—one dumb enough to hop into your black kettle—should do the trick.”
“I would say you’re definitely going to be getting something out of it too.” And maybe while we’re at it, we can turn up the heat and get that kettle to steaming?
Her gaze wandered out to sea. “Yes, but something much different from you. I’m not gay, nor do I have to worry, as you do, what the world thinks of me. Just one person, one person is all I care to convince…”
Waves crashed at his feet, the surf roaring as the tide began to move in. The breeze whipped the salty ocean mist around them, and its heady scent became laced with her sinful, sultry essence. She twisted, her heels finally touching the moist beach. Her movement made her briefly grind against his erection. Mitch stifled a groan. God, how he longed to throw her to the sand and bury himself between those long, tanned legs.
“Mmm, how about convincing me
At her questioning stare, he clarified, “Kiss me. I dare you to be an actress for just this one moment in your life and kiss me. Try to trick me, make me think you’re not only my fiancée, but madly in love with me.”
Panic burst in her eyes. She shifted her gaze up and down the beach. “No, I don’t think that would be—”
Before she could finish her retort, he bent his head and captured her mouth with his. He longed to know what she would taste like, how her mouth would feel on his, if she would surrender or fight him. She sighed, indulging him with one moment of capitulation in which her softness melted into him and her pineapple-flavored mouth opened to his hungry one. He gathered her close and dragged her softness up and down so her pussy abraded his cock. Fire ignited in his groin, fueled by her wanton, muffled cries. Of tortured ecstasy, maybe? It sure in hell sounded like it.
Mitch was just about to drop to his knees and cover her body with his when she tore her mouth free. She pressed her palms against him, the sunglasses digging into the meat of his chest. “No.”
“Ah, Kiona, yes. You know the answer’s yes. The moment I opened my eyes, the second your scent filled my lungs, I knew I had to have you.”
definitely has to be a line from one of your movies.” She shook her head vehemently. “I said no.”
Disappointment stabbed at him, an ice pick spearing his ego. Not one woman had turned him down since the release of his first blockbuster movie.