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Tempt (Take It Off)

By:Cambria Hebert

Tempt (Take It Off)
Cambria Hebert

       DEDICATION




To Regina Wamba. We started out as designer/client and we grew to be colleagues and friends. Your designs inspire and awe me. One of the best decisions I ever made when I started writing was hiring you to give my books beautiful faces.

Beyond that, this book is for you because you're the one who titled it.





TEMPT





PROLOGUE




I felt my heartbeat against my chest-a slow, steady rhythm, kind of lethargic and lazy. But that was because I was barely breathing. Actually, I was holding my breath.

He touched me.

His fingers drifted over my skin like a breeze on a summer day. It was a feather-light caress that never ended because he didn't lift his hands.

It started at my collarbone, drifted out across my shoulders, and then descended downward until he hooked his fingers around my elbow, brushing against the sensitive spot on the inside of my arm. Downward he traveled until his fingers pulled away from mine to hover just barely over the tops of my thighs.

Then his direction reversed, climbing upward so the slightly rough pads of his fingers traced the outline of my belly button and then dragged over my ribcage.

Tiny shivers raced up and down my spine, creating goose bumps that scattered over my scalp and caused my eyes to flutter closed.

His hands splayed around my waist, gripping my flesh and pulling me closer, but he didn't kiss me. He buried his face against my neck and used his tongue to wet a circle of tender skin, then pulled back slightly to blow across the area.

I shuddered.

My body started to arch into him, but something caught my arm, something large and warm. It wrapped around my bicep in a possessive manner, causing my head to turn, and I cast a glance in the direction I was being pulled.

My heartbeat accelerated instantly. The lethargic rhythm was chased away by a shot of adrenaline so pure that I could taste it on my tongue.

He yanked me away from the teasing, gentle caresses and cupped my face in his palm, lowering his lips toward mine. Excitement crackled along my nerve endings, and my tongue jutted out to moisten my lips.

Just as he was about to claim my kiss, I was yanked away again, this time by the one who had me first.

I cast a look to my left at green irises flashing with possession and then once again to my right where chocolate eyes gleamed with jealousy.

I was caught in the middle of two very enticing choices.

A choice I didn't want to make.

Brown-eyes stepped closer, his body brushing against the entire length of my arm. He reached out and pushed the hair back over my shoulder, exposing the side of my face. He leaned down and captured my earlobe between his teeth and sucked it into his mouth. The gentle suckling sounds that whispered through my ear loosened something deep inside me.

I turned my head toward him, not wanting him to stop.

But green-eyes was not to be cast aside.

His palm covered my breast, gently kneading the area and causing my hardening nipple to brush against the smooth fabric of my bikini top. And then his mouth was on my neck, pulling the skin into its moist warmth and massaging it with his tongue.

Two mouths …

Two sets of hands …

And my single body.

I wasn't sure who to touch, who to grab, but I didn't want either of them to stop. The sensation of being kissed in more than one place in a single moment made a moan escape from my lips.

My fingers began to twitch, wanting to elicit a shiver of their own.

As my hands lifted away from my sides, I vaguely wondered whom they would reach for first …





1




Scientists, philosophers, or whoever the group of people who sat around a desk and made up the list of the Seven Wonders of the World were wrong. There aren't seven. There are eight.

Number eight being men.

The reason men weren't added as a wonder of the world? Because men probably made up the list to begin with.

I knew trying to figure out men, trying to have one in my life was a fruitless effort, but it didn't stop me from having a relationship. It also didn't stop me from getting hurt.

Just when I was getting over the epic failure that was my ex, my grandmother died.

So basically, I felt like I'd boxed about ten rounds, the entire time holding my own, and then I was knocked out. Cold.

And now here I was, wandering through the insanely large, insanely busy Miami International Airport so I could get on some plane and fly off to Puerto Rico because my grandmother's dying wish was for her ashes to be scattered over the ocean there-the place where she met my grandfather over fifty years ago.

How did I get elected for the job?

I was Grandmother's favorite. I was between jobs. I was down on my luck. I needed a free vacation to a beautiful place.

Right. Because flying to some foreign country (though, I guess technically, it's not a foreign country since it's considered a US territory) with a special suitcase just for the remains of my beloved grandmother and then parting with them to an ocean is considered some nice vacation.                       
       
           



       

Clearly, my family is a bunch of whackos.

Even still, I love my family and my heart still ached over my grandmother's passing, so here I was. The suitcase rolling along behind me tipped, and my bags toppled to the floor. With a great sigh, I stopped and turned, righting the one on wheels and then bending over to pick up the one I had balanced on top.

I slid it over and unzipped it, peering inside at the bubble-wrapped urn. Nothing appeared to be broken. "Sorry, Kiki," I murmured, using the name I called her since I could speak, and then zipped it closed. Deciding not to take any more chances with the smaller bag, I carried on, rolling the bigger one behind and carrying the other in my free hand. I also had a messenger-style purse strapped across my shoulder and it banged against my thigh with every step.

I made my way through the rapidly moving crowds, toward the gate I was told would have my ticket. Why I couldn't get an electronic one like everyone else in the modern age I would never understand.

As I approached the gate, I couldn't help but be distracted by a man leaning against one of the nearby walls. He was reading a newspaper, holding it up in front of his face so all I could see were the two long-fingered hands holding the paper and his body from the waist down.

He wore a pair of beat-up jeans, really beat up. Like, with holes and hanging strings. The denim was faded in some spots and the fabric seemed thin and likely soft to the touch. His T-shirt looked as well worn as his jeans, except it didn't have any holes in it. All I could see of it was gray and just the front hem was tucked into his waistband, exposing a tan leather belt.

The way he leaned against the wall, kind of slouching with one foot out farther than the other, drew attention to his shoes. The boots were the same color as his belt and they appeared sturdy and not nearly as used as his clothes.

I couldn't tell you why I was so drawn to him. That was all I could see. He just looked like some regular (albeit lazy) guy waiting around for his plane to arrive. Although, he was reading the New York Times, which made me snort. He didn't really look like the kind of guy that would stand around reading that paper.

I snorted to myself again. He probably had a Penthouse just inside the paper and was really reading that.

My gate was off to my right and I turned, eyeing the counter and noting that there weren't as many people in this section of the airport as the other parts I'd just walked through. The woman behind the counter had perfectly combed hair slicked up into a bun on the back of her head. She was dressed in a navy blazer with the airline's name on the breast, and she sported a polite look on her face. When I stopped at the counter, I parked my bags next to me and flipped the top of my messenger bag open to reach inside for my wallet and ID.

"My name is Ava Malone. I was told my ticket to Puerto Rico would be here waiting for me."

The woman took my ID and looked at it and then handed it back to me. Her manicured fingers flew over the keyboard behind the counter and then she paused and looked up. "You're plane is already here."

Alarm spiked through me. "Am I late? I thought I was an hour early. As soon as I get my ticket, I'll go board. Will they hold the plane for me?"

She gave me an odd sort of look. "I'm sure it will wait, seeing as how you are the only passenger."

Confusion made me speechless. I felt my face scrunch up in an odd sort of way as her words replayed through my head. "I don't understand," I said slowly. "I can't be the only person flying to Puerto Rico today."

She shook her head. "Definitely not. But you are the only one who had a private plane come and fetch her."

A private plane? To fetch me?

"You must have the wrong person," I said, holding up my ID again. "You should check again. I should just have a ticket here. For one of the commercial flights."

"You're Ava Malone, correct?"

I glanced at my ID just to be sure. That's what it said, right there beside my horribly embarrassing photo. "Appears that's me," I muttered.

She smiled. "Your pilot is around here somewhere," she said, craning her neck to look around. Her eyes settled on someone across the room and she smiled. "He's right over there."

I turned, following her gaze. There next to the guy with ratty jeans was an older gentleman in a suit, holding a briefcase. I lifted my hand to wave at him. He got this puzzled look on his face and then waved uncertainly.

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