Known to the K2 Special Services team as “Saint,” Jamie Turner lives by his own strict rules to compensate for his past sins and the two-ton boulder taking residence in his heart. He doesn’t drink or smoke. He never swears. And he only dates nice, safe women until he meets Sugar Darling, the fill-in receptionist at K2. She’s as sweet as her name, but this wild woman is definitely trouble, with something to hide. He knows he should avoid her…but can he?
Sugar isn’t hiding something—she’s hiding everything. And K2 seems like the perfect place to lie low, thanks to the big, protective guys who work there. The drop-dead-handsome Saint makes her heart race, yet he keeps his distance. When Sugar’s traumatic past rises up to haunt her again, she desperately turns to Saint for help, and he has to decide what’s more important: playing it safe or risking everything for love.
Jamie backed the twenty-three foot Sea Ray away from the dock. Sugar sat on the padded seat next to him, her arms wrapped tightly around her waist. He loved his boat and wanted her to love it, too. Why that mattered, he chose not to think about.
By the color of her face, however, he thought she was only minutes from hanging her head over the side. It hadn’t occurred to him to ask if she was prone to seasickness, but they were only a few yards from the marina, the water as smooth as glass.
To divert her attention, he slipped his arm around her and pulled her onto his lap. “You steer.”
She tried to scramble away, but he held onto her. “Easy, sweetheart. Just put your hands here.” He brought up her unwilling hands and wrapped her fingers around the wheel. Her knuckles turned white. “I won’t let you run into anything.”
An annoyed breath huffed from her. “Shows what you know. If there’s anything within a hundred miles I shouldn’t run into, you probably won’t be able to stop me. Have you already forgotten the beer truck near miss?”
“I remember. Gave me nightmares.” Jamie pressed his mouth to the side of her neck and grinned, although the reminder should probably have him quaking in his flip-flops and in fear for the life of his boat. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she liked having control. Already, her fingers were turning back to a healthy pink, and the green was fading from her cheeks.
As she darted alert glances left and right, he eased up the throttle, giving her a little more speed. Minutes later, she gave a delighted laugh as they bounced over the small waves coming in from the inlet.
“Where am I supposed to be going?” she called over the roar of the motors.
“Straight ahead.” He wrapped his arms around her waist, liking the feel of her against his body.
She peered back at him, her eyes as wide as saucers. “In the ocean?”
“You a scaredy cat?” Unless he missed his guess, the woman wouldn’t refuse a dare.
Her lips thinned into a determined line. “Hell, no.”
It took every bit of his control not to laugh when she tossed her straw hat aside, stood and practically pressed her nose to the windshield. Any desire to laugh died at the sight of her eye-level bikini clad bottom clearly visible through the gauzy cover-up. Unfortunately, the parrot painted on the back blocked out enticing parts of her. Figuring more speed would keep her focused on her driving, he moved the throttle forward some more.
“Just keep going in the direction you are. You want to keep inside the red and green buoys.” He’d checked the weather before inviting her, and knew there’d only be slight swells on the gulf.
“Piece of cake,” she said, and he heard the excitement in her voice. “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”
Her steady stream of self-encouragement brought a grin to his face. “What are you, the little choo-choo that can?”
Laughter flowed from her. “Yep, that’s me.”
Giving in to the need to touch her, he placed his hands at her knees, then trailed his fingers up her legs, his thumbs stroking the soft flesh of the inside of her thighs. He slipped under the cover-up, and when he reached that lovely ass in front of his face, her rounded cheeks rippled as the pads of his fingers danced over her skin. So, she liked that.
And he liked the little yellow bikini. Very much. All he had to do to get it off was pull the bows dangling down the sides of her hips. To test her reaction, he gave one a light tug and got swatted.
“Stop it.” She brushed his hand away. “I can’t concentrate when you do that.”
He’d get her out of it before the afternoon was over. He hoped. For now, she was coming up on the inlet, and she didn’t have the experience to get them through the pass. Standing, he pressed against her and eased back on the throttle. With his hands on her shoulders, he talked her past the shoals and incoming waves.
“I did it!” she cried when the last of the rock wall was behind them.
“You certainly did.” The excitement dancing in her eyes when she looked back at him reminded him of a child on Christmas morning. Once into the Gulf of Mexico, the boat rode the gentle swells as easily as a bobbing cork. He reached his arms forward and put his hands over hers, turning the wheel to the left.
She laughed, then pushed his hands away. “This is so great. I’ve never been on a boat before, and I love it.”
Jamie sat back down, letting her have the wheel. His Sea Ray was his one true love, and his heart gave a little flip at her words. The October day was perfect, warm enough not to be chilled by the wind, but not so hot they were sweltering. A line of pelicans flew overhead, their fat bodies and long beaks outlined by the stark blue sky.
When they took the lead, Sugar bounced on her feet. “Can we go faster? Please. Oh, pretty please.”
“The throttle’s there at your right hand. Just remember, we’re not on a NASCAR racetrack and you’re not Earnhardt.”
She let out a shriek and pushed the throttle forward, catching up with the pelicans. “Y’all have nothing on me, ya beady-eyed bastards,” she yelled heavenward, shaking a fist at them.
Her enthusiasm was contagious, and laughter spilled out of him, coming from places he thought he’d closed and locked the doors to forever. He tried to imagine Jill—or any of the other women he’d dated the past ten years—racing a flock of birds and…giving them the finger?
“Sore losers,” she muttered.
Jamie glanced behind him to see the pelicans veer off toward shore. “Appears they are. Is this where I’m supposed to soak you with champagne?”
“A simple, you’re awesome, Sugar, will suffice.” She glanced back and shot him a grin.
The woman was pure awesome, a fact he couldn’t deny. A funny thing happened then. As clear as day, he saw a fork in the road. One kept him going in the direction a scared, young man once decided was his destiny, a way to honor the parents he’d killed. The other might lead him to hell or heaven. There was no way to know which, only that a beautiful, vibrant woman with the unlikely name of Sugar Darling dared him to follow.
About the author:
A best selling, award-winning author, Sandra Owens lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Her family and friends often question her sanity, but have ceased being surprised by what she might get up to next. She’s jumped out of a plane, flown in an aerobatic plane while the pilot performed thrilling stunts, has flown Air Combat (two fighter planes dogfighting, pretending to shoot at each other with laser guns), and rode a Harley motorcycle for years. She regrets nothing.
Sandra is a 2013 Golden Heart® Finalist for her contemporary romance, CRAZY FOR HER. In addition to her contemporary romantic suspense novels, she writes Regency stories.
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