Like her father, Rafael Escobedo was a man of honor. Working at the resort, she'd become cynical, learning that most people were out
for what they could get, especially if it was free. But Rafael was different. He had a conscience and that was a refreshing revelation.
He stood a heart's beat away, his dark eyes caressing her. The spicy clean male smell of him surrounded her. Uncrossing
her arms and letting them fall, she felt singularly unprotected. Open and vulnerable to this man, she trembled with unknown possibilities, as if she stood on the edge of a deep chasm with no bottom
Her gaze fastened on his mouth, his sensuously mobile mouth. An invisible chord bound them. A gossamer web of unseen
threads pulled at her, compelling her. Should she do what she wanted to do? Should she?
Taking a step toward him, she felt as if she were crossing the desert, as if she were traversing a wasteland without the
promise of an oasis at the end. She took a step forward into his arms and rose on tiptoe, touching her mouth to his. A butterfly kiss.
The contact was brief but explosive. Her senses reeled when she felt the warm molding of his lips against hers. Shaken,
she stepped back.
His arms came up, capturing her, enfolding her into his embrace. He took possession of her mouth with his and his lips
moved over hers. His kiss was warm and wet, and he caressed her lips with his. His mouth explored hers—his kiss strong and sultry, filled with passion, hard and soft at the same time.
His kiss was so soft, yet so demanding that it filled her with an aching sensation—a desire that reverberated through
her, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes, plucking a need within her, filling her with a slow-kindling passion that rose from the very marrow of her bones.
She clung to him, lost in the magic of their mouths fused together. He teased her, nibbling at her lower lip, flicking
his tongue over the sensitive flesh. Sighing into his mouth, she surrendered to the delicious feelings roiling through her.
How she'd longed for this, to be held and cherished. To feel passion seep slowly through her veins, to have her heart
beat double-time. Reveling in the sensations, she felt alive for the first time in a long time.
At his gentle but insidious pressure, her lips parted, welcoming him inside. Tentatively, she touched her tongue to his,
savoring the hot velvet nap of him, the prickly rough abrasion of his intimate flesh intertwined with her own. Opening her mouth wider, she tasted him fully, devouring the essence of him, hungry
beyond measure, starved and needy. Their tongues danced, mated and fell apart, explored and retreated.
Cradling her face in his hands, he lifted his mouth from hers, breaking the kiss. His soft brown eyes were liquid with
tenderness, brimming with unspoken feelings.
"Does this mean you forgive me?" he asked.
She lifted her face and pulled away
from him, her fury finally finding voice. "But we're not best friends anymore. Don't you see?" She bit her lip. "You ruined it, Esteban,
when you asked me out. We can never be friends again."
"If not friends, Natalia, then there's this," he
growled, encircling her neck with his arm and drawing her into his embrace. "There's this ... and more. So much more." He
lowered his head and captured her lips, possessing her with a ferocity that left her breathless.
His mouth was hard and soft at the same time, demanding and
giving with equal measure. She fought the pleasure, struggled against the passion building inside of her. But it was no use.
Kissing him was like drowning; like trying to struggle
against the current of a mountain torrent but being pulled under by forces beyond her strength. Her blood surged through her veins, throbbing in her ears. Pressed against him, she felt the pounding
of his heart, and her own heart galloped in response.
His arm dropped to her waist and rested there. No longer
encircled by his strong arm, she was free. Free to pull away, but she didn't want her freedom. Her tongue found his, meeting his thrusts with her own exploration. The intimate, heated touch of his
against hers was almost shocking. She was suddenly dizzy, outside of herself,
as if her mind had shut down, leaving only the desperate cravings of her body.
Shuddering, her insides melted, going molten. And that most female part of her
throbbed too, slicking with desire.
She'd dreamed of this. In her most secret of hearts, she'd
wanted this. His hands on her body, touching her. His tongue in her mouth, tempting her.
Moving closer, she buried her fingers in the crisp
waves of his hair and molded herself against his body. She could feel his sex against her abdomen, hard and needy ... wanting her.
Wanting her ... needing her. The chant circled in her head.
She wanted too, needed too.
But not like this, a part of her mind fought the dizzying
desire, the pent-up passion. She refused to be another of his conquests. She must listen to her head, not her glands.
She pushed against his chest and forced herself to tear her
mouth from his, gasping, "Don't! I don't want this. It's not right, Esteban."
He released her and backed up a step, raising both hands in
mock surrender. He pinned her with his mahogany colored eyes and said, "It is right, Natalia, and you know it. You want it as much as I do."
She couldn't answer, knowing what he said was the
truth. She wanted him, a feeling both strange and frightening.
The wind rose to a shriek, sounding almost like a woman
in travail. The sea heaved and churned. The ship leaned sharply to one side. Again, Cahira felt her feet slipping. She grabbed for the rail, but her cold hands were too stiff. The rail slipped from
her grasp, and she could feel herself falling.
Raul caught her in his strong arms and clasped her
tightly. She placed one hand on his broad chest to brace herself and felt his heart beating beneath his tunic. At the touch of her hand, his pulse leapt and raced.
Realizing his response to her, heat suffused her. She
licked her lips and removed her hand. She was steady on her feet now, but he didn’t release her. His unfathomable black gaze captured hers and they stood, clasped in each other’s arms for what seemed
like an eternity.
He bent his head and his lips were within inches of
hers. Her heart leapt, too, plunging in a mad gallop. Was he going to kiss her again? Without thinking, she leaned closer, willing him to kiss her, needing his warmth and passion, craving the
But at the last moment, he drew back. Her breath
stopped in her chest and she remained perfectly still. Her shoulders sagged with disappointment. But with her disappointment, came the sharp-edged stab of guilt. For surely, she was a
He, on the other hand, possessed iron self-control. She
knew this because she’d felt his body’s response, sensed he wanted to kiss her as badly as she wanted him to.
She stepped back a pace and clasped the ship’s rail.
“Thank you for stopping me from going overboard.”
He reached out, and his long, slender fingers cupped
her chin, the touch of his flesh burning her chilled skin.
“No need to thank me.” His ebony eyes gleamed, the
darker pupils narrowing. His gaze moved over her like a caress. “Your face is as cold as fresh snow,” he murmured huskily. Without warning, his iron control reasserted itself, and he suddenly released her, clearing his throat. “You should go to your cabin. We can
talk about the journey later.”
How dare he dismiss her? And his smooth words didn’t
fool her, either. He hadn’t touched her again to learn if she was cold or not. Nay, the yearning she’d glimpsed in his eyes mirrored the throb in her own body.
How much longer could they go on torturing each