𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘤 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘥.
Stacey’s eyes popped open. She’d been dozing on and off to the soft rock station, her body relaxed, her mind subconsciously turning the lyrics of each song into a story. At some point, the easy love ballads had switched to pounding bass and screaming guitars.
𝘞𝘩𝘺 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘤 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘥? 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯?
Now alert, Stacey strained her ears to hear over the music. It was faint, but it definitely sounded as if someone was moving around out there. Her heart began to pound, brutally aware that she was buck naked and immersed in a hot tub – not exactly the best position to be in for receiving unexpected company.
Unexpected was the operative word. Her imagination began to run wild as she lifted herself to the edge of the tub. 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘧 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴𝘯’𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘱𝘢𝘯𝘺? 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘧 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘣𝘳𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘯 𝘪𝘯?
Stacey turned off the jets and listened intently. The clink of a bottle, the clank of a dish. Someone was in the kitchen, but not trashing the place. Her worries eased down just a notch. It was probably just Lina coming to check on her, she thought, reaching for the towel hanging from the arm of her wheelchair. Besides, an intruder would never have made it past the state of the art security system Lina had shown her…
𝘖𝘩, 𝘤𝘳𝘢𝘱. She had remembered to activate that after Lina and Kyle had left, hadn’t she? She’d thought about it, but she couldn’t remember actually doing so. She’d been so eager to start working on the opening scene of her book and had been distracted.
The fluffy white towel wasn’t cooperating. She tugged again; it was stuck. With her panic rising at the fear of being caught 𝘢𝘶 𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘭, Stacey gave it a desperate, hard pull. The towel came loose, but the brake lever on her chair disengaged in the process. Stacey watched in horror as her chair began to roll away. She lunged for it, but it was too late. Her wet bottom slid along the smooth edge of her tub and she plopped right back into the water, watching helplessly as her wheelchair came to a stop behind one of the potted palms.
Now what was she supposed to do?
𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬, 𝘔𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘺, 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬. The way she saw it, she had two options. One, lift her big behind out of the tub and skooch her way across the decorative hardwood to the chair and one of the terry robes, hoping no one came looking for her while she did. Or two, wait it out like a naked, sitting duck and hope it was Lina who eventually walked through that door.
Stacey kept her eyes on the door and began to ease out of the tub. She’d no sooner swung one leg onto the decking when the door handle began to turn. There was no way she as going to make it.
She flicked the jets back on and the tub lights off, then slid back into the water up to her neckline. Between the lack of light and the turbulent water, she might be able to hide her regretful decision to bathe naked. As an extra precaution, Stacey pulled the towel under the water and covered her girlie bits the best she could.
And then promptly forgot how to breathe, because it wasn’t Lina who entered.
It was a huge freaking Viking god.
He filled the doorframe. Long blond hair touched his broad, broad shoulders. Full male lips graced a strong, hard-angled face. Bronzed, muscled arms extended from the snug, short-sleeved T straining across a well-defined chest.
Stacey sank lower until the water touched her chin. With the familiar blonde hair and stunning green eyes she could make out even from where she was, he had to be one of Lina’s brothers. Stacey was going to have a stern word or two for her friend next time she saw her. Over the course of their friendship, she’d heard a lot about Johnny and Michael, but never, in all that time, had Lina ever mentioned this insane level of masculine perfection, and the photos she’d proudly shown had been of a much younger boy who hadn’t yet reached this level of supreme manliness. That had to break some unwritten girlfriend rule somewhere.
He didn’t see her at first. He walked in a few steps and set what was left of a six-pack on the bench closest to the door. Then he bent over and untied his boots. He wasn’t going to…
… oh yes he was. After toeing off his boots, he grabbed the hem of his shirt and began to lift. A ripped set of washboard abs was revealed. Once again, Stacey forgot to breathe.
Talk about a dilemma! Carnal instinct warred with logic. Did she keep her mouth shut and enjoy the spectacular show? Each movement sent a delicious rippling effect over his upper body as his muscles worked in perfect harmony to remove that pesky cotton and reveal all… of… that.
Her other choice, of course, was to break the spell he was unknowingly weaving and announce her presence.
Beneath the water, she squeezed her thighs together, hard, and tried to rein in her rampant hormones. This was Lina’s brother. She had to do the right thing.
“Um, excuse me?”
He stilled, his faded jeans already halfway down his backside. Those powerful green eyes, trimmed by thick dark lashes, turned her way.
She smiled, or tried to. Her mouth didn’t seem to be working properly. “I’m Stacey.”
He blinked. Once. Twice. Then rose slowly back into an upright position. Her eyes flicked down to where his fly was open and his zipper was down, a gorgeous trail of dark golden hair disappearing behind a black waistband. It was impossible to tell for sure, but if pressed, she’d guess boxer briefs.
She licked her lips and forced her eyes back to his face. It wasn’t exactly a hardship. “I guess Lina didn’t tell you I was coming, huh?”
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