She's done with love and on a solo vacation in Belize over the holidays...
All she wants is a good time to forget the fact that her ex is marrying someone else on New Year's Eve.
Love, however, has it's own agenda.
An excerpt of the Amazon bestselling novella, Anonymity.
(reviews included beneath excerpt)
Bringing her engagement ring here had been an impulsive decision. Then again she felt like she was dancing on the precipice of insanity with all of the spontaneous choices she'd been making lately. Had she really propositioned a stranger to hook up with her for seven days of anonymous sex? For what? So she'd feel empowered by seducing a stranger? So she'd feel wanted?
I guess even an educated woman can act like an idiot.
She collapsed backward onto the bed and studied the ring Scott had given her years ago. The small diamond gleamed on a simple band of gold. Just out of graduate school and living in a small apartment in downtown Denver, it had been all they could afford and had made her incredibly happy at the time.
Fresh tears filled her eyes for all the wasted years spent living a lie. She'd never forget the day Scott had admitted that he hadn't been faithful to her. Ever. He'd been cheating on her since day one. He'd said with little remorse that he hadn't even been faithful to her when they'd visited her family in New Mexico. He hadn't been able to go one full week without cheating. She'd gotten HIV tested almost compulsively since their breakup, worried that he'd not only screwed every woman in sight but that he'd screwed up her life, too. But he hadn't...he'd left her with nothing but a ring and an apartment full of old furniture.
She'd donated the furniture, bought a condominium within walking distance to the museum, adopted a cat, and booked a trip to Belize. But the ring she'd kept even though it meant nothing. She'd brought it down here with grand ideas of tossing it into the ocean as a sort of symbolic closure.
Her thoughts drifted to Luke. She'd admired how he'd laughed after tipping in the kayak, bantered easily with Rosie, smiled at her as if he'd known her for years, and had obviously made friends with the scuba divers who acted like he was a part of their group. He had a way about him, a magnetic pull. She grinned at the way his shirt had molded to his body. Yeah, even now as the rum haze wore off she wanted to strip him naked and explore that body. Laughing at her thoughts, she tossed the ring onto the pillow and closed her eyes.
The knock on her cabana door surprised her. Probably Rosie. Had she signed the bar receipt? She couldn't remember.
Showered and dressed in a loose yellow sundress, she walked barefoot toward the persistent knocking. She yanked the door open and stared. There he was, dressed in dry blue t-shirt, khaki shorts, and flip-flops. He tilted his head a bit to the side as he assessed her, his grin contagious as he held up the forgotten metal box.
"You forgot your treasure at the bar. I was a little hurt. I risked my life for this."
She rocked back on her heels, struck by how the blue of his shirt emphasized his eyes. "I thought you were going out with your friends."
"They're not my friends. I met them the other night, a diving club from Dallas or somewhere like that. We had a good time last night with my family at the bar that ended up with us all jumping in the pool fully clothed. I guess I left my shirt behind, but that's it." His shrug pulled the shirt tight over his shoulders. "We had a deal, didn't we?"
Every fantasy she'd ever had came to life in her mind. Sex on the beach, against a palm tree, on the deck, in the king-sized bed behind her...every image created a slow burn deep in her gut.
"Scared? I'm harmless, I swear. Rosie can vouch for me, she's known me for seven days now, that's the equivalent of a lifetime on this small island."
"Said the serial killer right before he pulled a knife."
"I know you want to." His voice had lowered to a seductive purr. "Come with me. Have some fun. Live a little."
She hadn't anticipated him showing up, not with the leggy brunette hanging all over him. She already had her e-reader prepped for a night of hanging out in the hammock listening to waves lap against shore. She gripped the frame of the door and stared.
"Dinner and a town tour. Simple," he said even as his gaze skimmed over her neck to her cleavage.
"Why do you want to keep our deal?" she asked.
His gaze snapped back to hers. "You're the most interesting thing that's happened to me in a long time. I want more of that. Simple."
"I'm not..." she'd almost said she wasn't brave, that she'd been dizzy from rum and travel, but the look in his eyes stopped her. "What's the matter?"
"Why do you think something's the matter?"
She squinted. Guilt shadowed his eyes, but there was something else there, too. "Did I miss something after I left?"
"I may have led people to believe you were my girlfriend." He winced without breaking eye contact. "Don't slam the door in my face."
"Are you afraid of the supermodel who was coming onto you, Luke?" She folded her arms across her chest and smiled at the idea of him using their brief flirtation as an excuse to ditch the group from the bar. "Do you need me to save you from the gorgeous brunette?"
"Save me, Alyssa. Please." He leaned a hip against the door and extended the box toward her.
"Are you bribing me with your found treasure? Interesting." She took the box and laughed.
"That's not much of a bribe. You should hold out for more." He winked, his good humor convincing her that she'd be a fool to say no.
She tilted her chin up, hoping the fact that her knees were buckling didn't show. Going or not wasn't a question of want...she definitely wanted. She caught her lower lip between her teeth and studied him through narrowed eyes. If she followed through with impulse, she knew she'd end up sleeping with him before the night ended. Did she want to cross that line? Did she really want to seize the moment, embrace carpe diem and all of that bullshit she'd been telling herself since getting on the plane in Denver? Those were the questions that made her hesitate.
"You won't regret it." His blue eyes danced with mischief, almost as if he knew exactly what questions tumbled through her brain. "Please come out and play, Alyssa."
She smiled at his boyish use of the word 'play.' "Since you said please...give me a minute to get ready."
Opening the box, she chose a bracelet laced with various colors of blue stones, brushed the sea salt and sand from it, and wrapped it around her wrist. She couldn't help but laugh.
Well, grandma, I'm definitely out of my comfort zone and taking chances.
Luke's gaze moved over her like a light caress. Rather than a predator or some sleezeball who picked up women on a whim, he resembled a confident man about to take a woman on a date. Black hair no longer stuck out in every direction; rather it fell lightly across his forehead and skimmed his ears. Salt no longer stuck to his neck yet the impulse to taste his skin beneath her tongue superseded all common sense. Exhilaration pumped through her veins at the idea of possibilities.
"I promised you fun and I always keep my word. Trust me," he whispered against her ear while she locked her door. His hand touched the exposed skin of her back.
Her hands trembled at her sides. Desire rushed through her like lava erupting from a volcano. Everything she'd wanted while sitting at the bar doubled in intensity. She turned within the small space between his body and the door and surrendered to temptation. Standing on tiptoes, she slid her hands over his chest and up to his shoulders.
"It's cliché to say I don't normally do this kind of thing, but I honestly don't. This is a first for me," she said.
"What part? The traveling solo part or the going out with a stranger in a foreign country part?"
"No past, no future." He slipped his hand behind her neck and stopped within a fraction from kissing her. "No judgment, no regret."
He surprised her by stepping back and snagging her hand. Laughing, he pulled her to the sand and toward the beach.
"Tease," she said, bumping her shoulder against his.
"You've been bossy enough—stealing my treasure, bullying me into taking you out—tonight I'm in charge."
"Oh, really?" She liked that idea more than she'd admit. The thought of him taking charge, being in control, turned her on in ways she hadn't imagined.
From the way he looked at her, either he'd read her mind or they were on the same page.
They walked along the beach into town, hands grazing each other, arms touching. The stars shone like crystals in the night sky that meshed with the blackness of the ocean. Wind tossed her dress around her knees and plastered it to her thighs.
"Any excursions planned?" he asked after a lengthy silence.
"Tomorrow I'm going on the Lamanai trip to the mainland to see the Mayan ruins. I booked it online when I made the reservation here, but now I wish I hadn't." She watched a water taxi speed buy them loaded down with rowdy tourists.
"I'm on that trip, too."
She squinted at him. "No, you're not."
"I am. My family was here all last week and I have little nieces and nephews. No one wanted to do the adventurous things with me so I waited until they left." He smiled down at her, black hair falling across his eyes with the steady wind blowing inland. "I did see the zoo, though. Fun times."
"What did they think of you staying behind?" She pushed her hair behind her ears, wishing she had brought a hair tie of some kind.
"They're used to me doing my own thing." He shrugged and looked toward a passing boat. "What did your family think of you coming down here alone?"
"It's uncharacteristic." She fell into step with him as they resumed walking into town.
"You seem pretty adventurous to me." He winked and then laughed when she looked away. "I meant it when I said this was a simple dinner...after that, whatever happens, happens. I don't expect anything. Don't worry."
She felt the blush heat her face and purposely averted her gaze to the sand in front of her feet. Maybe he didn't expect anything, but she did. She swallowed the sudden flood of saliva at the idea of getting him naked.
It's official; I've lost my mind.
She sighed and forced her thoughts away from sex. Okay, so maybe she hadn't slept with anyone since Scott and only one other man before him, which was years ago. Horny was an understatement. Luke made her crave skin-on-skin. She'd wanted him to kiss her, was a bit annoyed that he hadn't.
When music wafted down to the beach from one of the bars, he snagged her against him and pulled her into a dance. She laughed at the spontaneity.
"You're deep in thought," he said with a smile. "That's not allowed."
"No?" She laughed when he dipped her backward before snapping her back up to face him. "Are you always so happy?"
"I'm on vacation and dancing with a gorgeous blonde in the moonlight, of course I'm happy." He moved her into a tight circle on the beach. The feel of his body against hers created havoc with her nerves.
"This is crazy," she whispered, not entirely sure if she was talking about her reaction to him, their date, or the entire situation.
Give in, a voice encouraged from deep within her psyche.
She skimmed her fingers over his neck before sliding them into his hair. Grinning because it felt good to abandon inhibitions, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him.
He slid his lips against hers, eyes wide open and reflecting moonlight. His hands gripped her hips. Slowly, they savored the taste of each other.
Tremors of desire began where their lips met and rocked through her body to her toes until she felt certain she'd collapse. Shaken, she locked her fingers behind his head and teased his lips with her tongue. He opened his mouth and deepened the kiss. Intense. Hard. Perhaps it was the beach or the aftereffects of Rosie's special concoction, but she'd never felt like this from a kiss.
With a gasp, he lifted his face from hers and stared into her eyes. His chest rose and fell against hers with each steadying breath.
"Why do I feel like I just dove off a cliff?" he asked without letting her go.
"Just go with it." She smiled against his chin before sliding down the length of him until her feet were firmly on the sand. Emboldened by the knowledge that his reaction mirrored her own, she laced her fingers with his.
"Oh, I'm going with it." He pulled her against his side. "I'm the go-with-the-flow kind of guy, remember?"
She laughed, surprised she felt so lighthearted after feeling rather dark for months. "So where are we headed?"
"Stay close to me." He yanked her hard against his side and smiled down at her. "Straight ahead there's a restaurant built at the end of the pier. I thought you'd enjoy it."
"Why did you tell the brunette you had a girlfriend? Why not just blow her off?"
"I've been doing that for days. My brothers were persistent about pushing us together, even hinted that I'd be alone and in need of company." He shrugged but irritation had crept into his voice. "Like we said earlier, some people can't stand seeing single people enjoying their freedom. They left and well...you appeared. That's that."
She frowned at the sand. That wasn't much of an explanation in her opinion. The point was that she'd never be mistaken for a fashion model of any kind. At only five foot five, she bordered on short compared to most. Her naturally curly hair presented more problems than it was worth, but she had purposely decided not to bring her straightening iron on the trip because...well, it was the beach!
"So you have an aversion to sexy supermodel types who scuba dive and think you're hot?" she said before thinking.
"Don't you dive?" He squeezed her hand. "I already know you think I'm hot so...I guess I don't understand the question."
"Smart man." She smiled, not bothering to look away from the sand in front of them.
* * *
The kiss had rocked his world. He wanted to peel that yellow dress down her body and free her breasts for his hands to explore. He hadn't had a reaction like that to a woman in years. It simultaneously excited and terrified him. The steady ocean breeze tossed her curly blonde hair against his bicep; the touch played havoc with his self-control.
He ripped his gaze from the top of her head and forced himself to focus on their destination.
"Do you travel a lot?" she asked.
"Does that fall under personal detail or am I allowed to answer?"
"As often as possible, which isn't often enough." He dropped his hand to her waist and guided her onto the pier. The entrance of the restaurant overflowed with groups and a few couples. Despite his nonchalant attitude about couples, he liked having her at his side as the hostess led them to a table at the far end of the room.
The restaurant had been constructed at the end of the pier with their table next to a railing that led directly to the water. Tiki torches lined the space, laughter and chatter mixed with the steady hum of the sea. A glass partition had been raised between the roof and the rail to protect the patrons for the wind whose force managed to find its way inside anyway.
Alyssa pushed her unruly mass of hair behind her ears and shrugged. "I should have brought a scarf or something. I'm probably a mess."
He gulped back the overflow of saliva flooding his mouth. Face almost devoid of make-up and flushed from the sun with fresh freckles dotting her nose, hair disheveled around bare shoulders, blue eyes flashing with self-deprecating humor, and a smile that reminded him of what she'd tasted like only minutes earlier, she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.
"It's the beach, you look perfectly beach-like," he said.
"That's what I'm afraid of," she said, reaching for the menu.
"I know we agreed to no personal details like last names or careers, but we need to talk about something." He smiled at the blush that tinted her cheeks. "I mean, in between...whatever we'll be doing later...we need to talk. I'm not a machine."
"Oh, God," she groaned and reached for the water.
"Don't get me wrong. I have great stamina—"
"I have no doubt."
"But I'm wondering if everything else is on the table?"
"Is what on the table?" She bit her lower lip and looked at him as if he were the main course.
"Talking...are all other subjects—"
"Yeah, oh yeah, of course." She drank the entire glass of water and grinned at the waitress who promptly refilled it.
He enjoyed teasing her and seeing nervousness battle with boldness. The contradiction fascinated him. He leaned back in his chair and enjoyed his view. Extending his vacation had been the best decision he'd ever made. He hadn't felt this relaxed with anyone in years, not even his family with all of their expectations and concern. Sighing, he watched the torchlight reflect in her eyes.
"If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?" he asked after a long silence.
"The Four Seasons on Fiji...you know the place with the cabanas out over the water? I'd love to go there." She leaned back while the waitress poured them each a glass of wine. "What about you?"
"South Africa on a photo safari."
"Oh, if only we had all the time and the money in the world to indulge our fantasies..." Her eyes darkened at the word 'fantasies'.
He shifted in his seat, suddenly feeling like a teenage boy on his first date. Why did everything she say sound like sexual innuendo to him?
"Time is what you make of it and there's always enough money for your priorities." He tapped his fingers on the table, his gaze steady on hers. "It's hard not asking more about you. There's so much I'd like to know."
"I'm a woman of mystery."
"Well-played. I'm officially intrigued." He toasted her with his glass.
"I like this, it's simple. No pressure."
"You're an easy person to be with, woman of mystery and all. Your ex must be an idiot."
"He's a certifiable moron." She waved a finger at him. "That borders on too personal."
"You'll have to punish me later."
"Are you sure you'll be able to handle it?"
"I can't wait to find out." Damn, he enjoyed flirting with her. The blush on her face warred with the dare in her eyes. He laughed and drank more wine. This is what vacations were meant to be, he felt certain of it.
They ate dinner, discussing topics like global warming, the health of the oceans, and favorite rock bands. It was the best date he'd ever had. Both kept to their promise of zero personal revelations. No talk about work, no trying to impress one another.
One bottle of wine later, dinner ended and possibility stirred between them. All of their flirtation hung in the air as they walked back onto the beach in silence.
He hardened at the slightest physical contact; doubtful he'd be able to be a gentleman much longer. Her body was made for a man's hands with curves he ached to touch. She radiated heat that burned through the clothes separating their bodies as they walked side-by-side down along the water's edge. Shoes dangled from their fingertips as they allowed warm waves to caress their ankles.
Screw it. He only had six more days before returning to his tidy well-constructed life. He stopped, pulled her against him, lifted her up and kissed her.
Hand at the nape of her neck, he pulled back a fraction to look into her eyes. "Are you sure you want this, that you want me? Tell me now before I let myself go."
She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, eyes bright with desire. "I've never been as sure about anything as I am about you right now."
He smiled against her mouth, loving that she was entwined around him like an exotic vine. "You're one intense lady, do you realize that? It's like you're on fire."
"It's an illusion, I'm a fraud," she whispered against his lips.
"I don't think so. Neither of us has anything to gain or lose."
"Stop talking." She kissed him with passion that drove him over the brink of control.
They needed to get someplace—anyplace—private. Now.
Not breaking the kiss, he dropped her gently to her feet. Kissing, touching, laughing, they stumbled down the beach toward the resort. A crowd had assembled on the beach in front of the bar where Dave the One Man Band presided. The group of scuba divers played beach volleyball amidst it all. Maneuvering through them would be a challenge, especially with Savannah overly curious about Alyssa.
"Locals come out for Dave," he said when she simply stared at the transformation from tranquil paradise to party central. "Come here." He dragged her into the gardens surrounding Ramon's Village and pressed her back against a tree. "Feeling adventurous?"
"What do you think?" She pushed her hands beneath his shirt.
His mouth ravaged hers while his hands slid beneath her dress and squeezed her ass. One hand moved up the front of her dress, teased her breast beneath the fabric, while the other inched her panties aside. He felt like a man hell bent to touch her skin.
"Not very romantic, I'll make up for it later. I need to have you."
"I'm not complaining. I want this just as badly as you do." She bit his neck while her fingers fumbled with his zipper. Her hands slid inside his waistband before closing around his erection.
God, he'd never wanted anyone like this. It's like he would die without being inside of her. Urgency pulsated through his veins.
He fumbled with the condom he'd stuffed into his back pocket while he kissed her neck and reveled in her hands moving up and down on him. He lifted her up until they were eye level, her feet off the ground and linking behind his waist. Her hair fell across her eyes when she laughed and lifted her hands over her head to grab the tree at her back.
"You're the sexiest woman I've ever met." He pulled one of the straps of her dress down and squeezed the heavy breast he'd been salivating over since seeing her sitting at the bar. His thumb toyed with her nipple.
He thrust inside of her and felt the velvety tightness envelope him. He grabbed her wrists and held them against the trunk of the tree. She ground her tongue into this mouth.
This was sex, animalistic, raw, intense, passionate, no-holding-back sex.
Closing his eyes, he surrendered to the sensations...the palm tree hard against his knees as he ground his hips against hers, her tongue driving him insane, his mouth on her neck, her breasts pressing against his chest, her heels grinding into his ass, 80s rock music blaring from behind them, people laughing only fifty feet away, ocean lapping against the shore, scent of flowers mixing with barbecue, breeze tossing the palms above them, and the feel of her thighs squeezing him tight.
He hadn't let himself go like this in years, maybe ever.
They came together, both moaning into each other's mouths, eyes wide open, connected in the moment. They laughed against each other's lips, neither pulling apart.
She curled her fingers into his hair. "I want more."
"Insatiable...I like it." His teeth gently tugged her lower lip.
"Best. Vacation. Ever." She kissed him with each word.
"On fire, I'm telling you." He dropped her wrists and smoothed his hands over her breasts. "You're like an inferno."
"Only with you." Curls danced in front of her eyes as she pulled him back for another kiss. "I'm not lying. If I'm on fire, it's because you found the fuse."
"That sounds like a bad song lyric. I think you've been exposed to Dave the Gringo's music too long, we'd better get you inside and away from his influence." He kissed her, not wanting to step away from the tree but knowing they were pushing the limits by staying here too long. Something stirred deep in his chest with her words, with the kiss, with this entire scenario.
She laughed against his mouth before dropping her legs from around him and sliding down his chest. He felt like the entire world would know what they'd been doing in the bushes. He laughed to himself as he stuffed her panties in his pocket. He had never had sex against a palm tree before and definitely never within yards of a group of people. Exhilaration hammered through his heart.
She smoothed hair from his eyes. "You look like you've been having sex on the beach."
"So do you." He turned them into an impromptu dance on the sand, his mouth clinging to hers in a slow kiss, while he held her close.
"You're too good to be true," she whispered. "I can't believe you're real."
"Like you said...it's all an illusion." Regret flashed in her eyes, darkened them in the moonlight, before she looked away.
Maybe it was, but then again maybe it wasn't.
He flattened his palms over her shoulders and wondered at the glimpse of pain he'd seen. Anonymity had its pros...and cons.
"Your place or mine?" he asked.
"Mine. Want to race?" When she met his gaze again, the pain had been replaced with desire.
"Hey, Luke!" Savannah shouted from behind them. "I thought you'd disappeared."
Scared of losing the intimacy, he framed Alyssa's face and held her gaze. "We've been spotted. One drink to be sociable and then we'll go, okay?"
Concern shadowed her eyes, but she nodded.
He remembered then why she'd said she'd come to the island alone...cheating fiancé getting married in a few days. She'd probably been bluffing about the weeklong affair, had been being impulsive for the sake of forgetting, but now they'd crossed a line and self-doubt flickered in the depths of her blue eyes.
He kissed her and reminded her through actions rather than words that she was the most desirable woman he'd ever met. Maybe they were both playing pretend while in paradise before retreating to their normal lives. So what? He'd only gotten a taste and a glimpse of the woman in his arms and he wanted to spend every minute of the next several days savoring her.
Keep reading Anonymity and escape to an idyllic island where the days are hot but the nights are hotter...
A few of the reviews...
5.0 out of 5 stars
Anonymity, excellent read!
Great love story! I could feel the characters' "electric chemistry" jump right out of the pages...couldn't put the book down! Definitely rates up there as one of the best romance books I've ever read! A must read for anyone who loves romance(:
5.0 out of 5 stars
Passion Filled Vacation
Pamela (Toronto, ON)
Amber Lea Easton ("Easton") truly shines when it comes to giving her readers exactly what they want when it comes to romance; a novel full of passion and hot hot sex; and characters (both lead and supporting) who you'll fall in love with; all on a sandy beach with crystal-clear blue water as far as the eye can see. The author wields a terrific and engaging story, even thought-provoking at times, that's full of fun and desire that leaves you not only wishing it was you on that beach, but you who's being screwed hard against a palm tree by one very hot and sexy male specimen like Luke.
This is the second novel of Easton's I've read and it will most definitely not be my last. I was actually sad when the story ended; that it wasn't longer than 186 pages as I couldn't get enough. Thoughts of getting on a plane heading towards a tropical beach is all I can think of - that, and a palm tree.
5.0 out of 5 stars
ChristophFischerBooks "Chris" (Top 500 Amazon Reviewer)
"Anonymity" by Amber Lea Easton is a great holiday romance, set in Belize between Christmas and New Year - coincidentally the same time that I read the novel.
Reading the novel about a no-strings attached one week fling between Alyssa and Luke was the perfect escapism, just like a sweet dream. The two make a pact not to talk about their real lives: What happens in Belize, stays in Belize. Or does it?
Sunshine, water, sex and jungle adventures are part of this fun-filled and lovely story. Besides the great main characters there are a few really well chosen others, such as the bar tender Rosie and Savannah, who also has the hots for Luke.
Well written and easy on the proverbial eye this is a very enjoyable and entertaining read that should please a wide audience.
5.0 out of 5 stars
The perfect romance with more than I thought possible
Reviews by Molly
Thank you Amber Lea Easton for completely capturing the essence of romance. You have, yet again, set the bar high. This was the perfect book. The main characters were strong and well developed and I felt like I was in Belize. The best surprise was the connection to the secondary characters. I fell in love with Rosie and found myself rooting for Savannah. What a great story about new beginnings and living the way we all dream of.