Lisa Engles flipped shoulder-length blond hair behind her back and turned to stare at the computer screen in front of her employee.
“What is it, Mike?”
The young man pointed at a notification. “This gentleman made his reservation over a week ago.”
“Yes, I see that. Give him a room key and send him up. I know it’s not two yet, but the maid shows the room’s been cleaned.”
“That’s the problem, Ms. Engles. The room’s been cleaned, but the occupant hasn’t left. He’s extended his stay for another two days.”
“Give…” She looked at the name on the account. “Mr. White another room on that floor.”
“We can’t. We had an unexpected influx of teenagers for the volleyball tourney. Seems their previous accommodations left a little to be desired.”
Lisa raised her eyes to peer across the counter at the waiting guest. Dark, penetrating eyes met hers. In less time than it took to blink, her stomach fluttered with appreciation.
An attractive man stared back at her: close-cropped, dark brown hair; long, straight nose; even teeth and full lips over a clefted chin.
She straightened her spine but still didn’t quite meet his height. He was probably five-ten or eleven and looked extremely well put together in that navy suit and white dress shirt. How she loved a man in a white dress shirt.
His head dipped in acknowledgement. How long had she stared at him? Gracious, she hadn’t spent this long looking at a man since her husband died eighteen months ago. He must think her an addle-pated fool.
“Mr. White?” she asked, to have something to say, anything, while she considered what she should be saying.
“Yes. Bob White.”
He held out his hand, and she was forced to take it. He held hers a fraction longer than necessary, but she wasn’t about to complain. The warmth of his grasp ignited the nerves in her fingers.
She gawked at him as she offered a tentative smile. Were his eyes even darker than before? Why didn’t he look away? He kept staring at her, a little too intently for normalcy, even if he was waiting on her to decide the fate of his room.
“Ms. Engles?” interrupted Mike. “We have a non-smoking suite available, but that’s about it.”
“Are you a smoker, Mr. White?” she asked, almost holding her breath as she waited for his answer.
“Bob, please…and no, I’m not. Are you, Ms. Engles?”
“No, I’m not, Mr. White. We’ll put you in the Excelsior Suite. It’s lovely. Enjoy your stay.”
She moved away without meeting his eyes, but his deep voice called her back. “Ms. Engles, perhaps you could give me a tour of the facilities later.”
“I…” she glanced at the interested faces of the other guests waiting at the reservation desk. “I would be happy to do that. Would anyone else care for a tour? Say…” She looked at her watch. She had a domestics meeting in thirty minutes, but after that… “How about we meet here at four?”
Mr. White nodded, his intense eyes assuring her that he knew she felt nervous around him. Why else would she invite all the passersby to an impromptu sightseeing excursion?
She whirled away. Now was not the time to let her imagination run away with her.
An hour and fifteen minutes later, she scanned the lobby for potential takers to her offer. No one. No one, but Mr. White. And his eyes locked on hers like he’d been waiting for her all his life.
Perhaps now might be the time to let her imagination run wild.
For a moment, all she could do was stare at him. He’d shed the suit jacket and rolled up his shirtsleeves. His arms were tan and muscular with just the right amount of dark, curling hair. What would it feel like if he pulled her close and kissed her…maybe the wild imagination wasn’t a good idea.
She took a step forward. “Mr. White?” She pretended to search the lobby area. “What happened to our other sightseers?”
“Please…call me Bob. I paid them to occupy themselves elsewhere.”
“Oh?” Was he serious? He certainly looked serious. He hadn’t smiled since she’d first met him, just studied her with those captivating brown eyes. “I suppose we should get going then. I thought a golf cart?”
“Whatever you suggest, Ms. Engles.”
He followed her out the glass doors to a queue of golf carts along the palm-lined sidewalk.
“These are reserved for the staff, but golf carts are available to our guests from seven in the morning until ten at night. I recommend a reservation. They generally go pretty fast on the weekends. After you.”
She held out a hand, and Mr. White climbed aboard. She carefully settled beside him, which wasn’t at all easy in her tight black pencil skirt, especially trying to prevent her thigh from pressing against his. A vain attempt.
He rested his hand on his leg, brushing hers, and she went light-headed.
She shook her hair back and turned the key. What a ride this would be.
“Are you from around here, Mr. White?”
“Bob. No, I’m not.”
“Are you here for work?”
He turned to face her. “Purely pleasure.”
Why did he make that sound like she was the pleasure?
“I see. Do you have plans for your vacation?”
“Are you offering to make some?”
“Um, no, I was merely making conversation.”
“I have no plans, Ms. Engles, beyond an afternoon with you.”
Her heart did a quick dance, and she tamped down her rampant enthusiasm.
“Hopefully, this tour will give you some ideas for further activities.”
“Being with you brings several activities to mind.”
Lisa braked suddenly, and he flung out his hand to steady her.
“Sorry,” she said. “Here’s the first tee. It’s a popular course. We have pros visit from around the country. Next weekend, there’s a competition. Will you be here?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
Lisa looked out over the bright green grass. In perfect condition. Just what she liked to see. The groundskeepers were definitely doing their job. A much more suitable topic of thought for her brain than considering what it might take to convince Mr. White to stay.
“Well, I hope you like it here. Let’s check out the pools.”
“You have more than one?”
Finally, he was making normal conversation. She pressed on the pedal for more speed.
“Oh, yes. We have a family pool with lots of slides and underwater tunnels for the kids, an indoor heated pool, one that makes waves with a very pleasant sandy beach, and we have another with an Olympic-sized high dive for the more adventurous.”
“Are you adventurous, Ms. Engles?”
“Not at all, Mr. White. I prefer to keep my feet firmly on the ground. My daughter likes the high dive, though. She’s up there most days.”
“You have a daughter? How old?”
His eyes met hers, and his head tilted. “You hardly seem old enough for a twelve-year old.”
He glanced at her ringless hands. “You’re married?”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
And he was. It showed in the darkening of his already dark eyes as he stared at her. But loss wasn’t an emotion she was prepared to deal with in front of him or anyone else.
“Thank you. Here we go. As you can see, the pools are extremely popular.”
Multiple guests wandered the path to and from the pool area, many carrying the large white monogrammed towels of the resort.
“It’s lovely,” he said, staring at her.
Lisa broke eye contact and got the cart moving again. “Let’s take a look at the tennis courts.”
Mr. White remained silent as Lisa maneuvered the golf cart across the resort. She breathed a sigh of relief as she surveyed the grounds…immaculate. It gave her a deep sense of contentment to see the resort through his eyes and recognize what an attractive picture it made.
They reached the courts, and Lisa pulled beside the bleachers. “There’s a sign-up sheet for the courts as well, or you can go online and make a reservation. We have eight courts.”
Before she could tell him about the batting cages, his hand shot out and caught a tennis ball mere inches from her face.
She squealed, and her hand jerked up to her neck. “Oh, my goodness! Thank you so much, Mr. White. Have you got fast reflexes!”
“I pitched in college.”
He threw the tennis ball over the fence back onto the court.
“You might enjoy the batting cages then. Would you like to drive around there now? It’s on the north side.”
“I’ve seen enough for tonight. I haven’t had a chance to visit my room yet. Perhaps you could take me there?”
Lisa glanced at her watch. Though they’d been driving around for close to forty-five minutes, she knew next to nothing about him. She veered toward the main building, getting more nervous by the second. She wouldn’t really go inside with him, just drop him off.
When she pulled to a stop, he laid his hand on her arm. “Will you come in for a moment?”
“I…really, I think you can find it from here. There’s an elevator just inside those glass doors. Go to the top floor.”
He reached to her shoulder and brushed her hair back in an agonizingly slow movement then met her eyes.
Lisa leaned forward, trapped by the strength of his gaze. Another six inches and their lips would meet. She’d been thinking of it since she first saw him. He had to be thinking the same.
“Please,” he said.
“If you think you really need me.”
“I do…very much.”
She turned the key and pulled it out of the cart then joined him on the sidewalk. He put his hand under her elbow and walked her inside to the elevator. Just that light touch kept her senses on edge. Thankfully, several other guests piled in with them.
Finally, they reached the top floor and exited.
“This way,” said Lisa.
When they reached his room, he slid the key card through the lock and pushed the door wide before following her inside.
Lisa strode to the curtains and flung them back so he could see the view of the links. More than that, it gave her something to focus on besides how attractive she found him. Which really made no sense. All of his features were perfectly ordinary. He could never be called a hunk or a hottie or whatever else her daughter currently called her favorite teen throbs. It wasn’t his smile because she hadn’t seen it yet, nor his kindness because she didn’t know him. But for some reason, he appealed to her.
She looked past him to the bedroom and saw that his suitcases had been delivered. “Your cases are in your room, I see.”
He walked toward her with purpose, his eyes never leaving hers. When he reached her, he put one arm around her back. When she didn’t resist, he put his other hand at her waist and pulled.
In seconds, they were kissing as if they couldn’t get enough of each other.
The hot pressure of his hands as they caressed her back brought a surge of longing. Her mind exploded with sensations she’d forgotten. She felt so alive. Not since Roger had she wanted to be held like this, to be loved and desired. And by a perfect stranger.
When they fell back against the couch, she wanted to drown in the feeling of his body pressed against hers. Then awareness of her surroundings hit her. What was she doing?
She opened her eyes to peer at Mr. White. He was breathing just as hard as she was. His hair was tousled where she’d run her fingers through it. She barely remembered doing it. What had come over her?
She put her hand against his chest, and he rested his over it.
“Wait, I can’t,” she said a trifle breathlessly.
“I know. I’m sorry. I’ve never done anything like this.”
He sat up and pulled her beside him. They sat in silence for several seconds then he gestured at the wide sliding glass window.
“You’re right about the view.”
Lisa laughed. Apparently, he was having a difficult time thinking of something to say.
When she looked at him, he smiled slightly. It softened his features and made him even more attractive.
“You’re a lovely woman. I hope you can forgive me, Ms. Engles.”
“Mr. White, I believe we are both to blame for…for this.”
“Bob. Surely, now, you can call me Bob.”
“If you call me Lisa.”
“Lisa, would you have dinner with me tonight?” He took her hand, rubbing his thumb across her palm. “As an apology.”
Lisa looked around the room. Low lighting from the wall sconces, plush couch, highly varnished dining table and chairs, spotless glass doors which led out to a balcony and a hot tub. Quite an attractive ambiance for wooing. And probably not somewhere she needed to be alone with Mr. White.
“I could meet you in the restaurant at seven. I have an early call in the morning.”
“Seven, it is.”
He rose, pulling her with him. For a second, she thought he would kiss her again, even wanted him to, but he sighed and backed away to walk her to the door.
“I’ll see you later.”
She nodded and slipped out, hoping she didn’t look as rumpled as she felt.
When the door closed behind her, she ran her fingers through her hair then down her skirt and walked briskly to the elevator.
A growing sense of revulsion brought on an annoying thud at her temples. She was appalled by her behavior. How in the world was she going to explain to Julianne that they were having dinner with a total stranger? Because she wasn’t about to spend any more time alone with Mr. White…Bob…until she got to know him better. Could her judgment be that off? That she would jump at a man within minutes of meeting him? There was just something about him. Something appealing, more than sexual attraction. Something…safe.
He refused to think she’d ever done that before. Not that face. Too guileless. Not that body under another man’s hands. A body that wasn’t his to consider. He’d just spend a few days here, making sure she and the girl were all right, and then he’d return to the job. He owed Roger that. In fact, he should have come after the accident, but his job had intruded. The best he could do was keep tabs on them through unofficial channels.
Now that he was here, he had a lot to make up to them. Was the daughter as fragile-looking as the mother…step-mother? The photos made it appear so. They hardly ever smiled. Who could blame them? They’d lost a husband/father and a son/brother in a single instant. Half a picture-perfect family…gone.
He shoved away from the door and strode to his bedroom. This was going to be more difficult than he’d supposed, but Lisa and Julianne Engles were worth it. And he owed it to Roger.
Buy it now: