May 6, 2011
Erotic Contemporary Romance
She’s everything he escaped…and all that he desires
Three years ago, Kyle turned his back on a pro-football career and being the target of tabloids or gold-digging groupies. Craving privacy, he gets it at his roadhouse in Northern California until Lexi Sands invades his life. Indulged and surely phony, she’s exactly what Kyle fled.
An actress since childhood, Lexi’s fresh out of an anger management program, court-ordered when she lashed out at a badgering paparazzo. Weary of the press’s harsh scrutiny, she sees Kyle’s secluded cabin as the ideal place to hide out and him as a damn-near perfect alpha male. Deliciously virile. Protective. Principled. She offers him serious cash to let her stay for two weeks, assuring there will be no complications or touching.
Yeah, right. Passion flares, along with tenderness. Kyle recognizes how lonely Lexi really is, while she’s falling hard. Through intimate days and impassioned nights, they explore their most shameless needs, until a cruel betrayal exposes their growing love, forcing a choice neither anticipated.
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An Excerpt From: TAKE ME AWAY
Copyright © TINA DONAHUE, 2011
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
"Let me get this straight," Kyle Griffin said. His attention remained on the flat screen TV suspended above the bar, the Braves-Phillies Game. "You're asking me to shack up with Vampira."
Pete Wolnecki made a strangled noise.
Kyle had no idea if Pete was stifling laughter or choking on his five-alarm chili. Its spicy aroma mingled with an abundance of fragrances - the sweet scent of corn, tomatoes and cheese from the other Mexican fare, the tang of foreign and domestic beer, smoke that clung to the patron's clothing, faint perfume from the ladies and a hint of pine from the Douglas firs surrounding this place.
Clearing his throat, Pete spoke in a raspy voice just loud enough for Kyle to hear. "Her name's Lexi."
Several men groaned before Kyle could.
The guy closest to him whined, "Did you see that? The receptionist in my office plays better ball."
"With any guy she can find," his buddy said.
They both laughed.
The game broke for a commercial. Good thing. The Braves were having a shitty night, no different than the kind Kyle had experienced during the worst days of his pro-football career. With his back to the TV, he planted his elbows on the lip of the polished oak bar and regarded two young women who stood yards away at the pool table.
Dressed in stretchy halter-tops, denim short-shorts and black flip-flops, the ladies giggled in unison, like a well-practiced duet. The guys with them winced when the shorter of the girls overshot the ball, the top of her cue just missing the table's green felt.
With a look that was all innocence, she asked her date, "It's still my turn until I hit it, right?"
Kyle couldn't watch. He swung his gaze to the left of them, the small stage for local bands that played on the weekends. Beyond it, snuggled against the wall, were a series of booths that offered subdued lighting and privacy. In the last one, away from everyone else, sat Vampira.
Her name's Lexi.
Whatever. For the second time tonight, Kyle regarded her black shoulder length hair and bangs, black clothing, black lipstick and nail polish. The Goth/vampire look with a touch of Frederick's of Hollywood thrown in given her denim mini skirt and short-sleeved top. His eyes flicked lower. The ends of her top tied beneath her ample breasts to bare her midriff, a smooth expanse of taut, creamy flesh.
He cleared his throat at its sudden tightness and inched his gaze lower. Anywhere else, her get-up would have gotten her noticed. Here in Marin County, California, staring was politically incorrect. The weirder one appeared the less attention one got. There were simply too many locals who looked at she did...slightly strange.
Of course, they weren't also oddly seductive.
Against his better judgment, Kyle dragged his gaze over her again, taking his time since she didn't seem to notice him or anyone else. Her full attention remained on the TV commercial, as though she was really into the product. Pepsi by the sound of the jingle.
Its music grew thunderous, frenzied with fake joy. Around him, beer bottles clinked against each other or on top of the tables and bar. The guys at the pool table laughed.
Warmth radiated from Kyle's chest to his neck. Her irises sparkled, reflecting the light from the garish neon signs for Coors, Bud, Miller, Corona. From this distance, her eyes appeared to be light blue, framed by sooty lashes. She was young, no more than mid-twenties, her features not beautiful but decidedly pretty, her figure definitely worth a third or fourth stare.
The game resumed. Men readjusted their bulk on their chairs or stools.
Without pause, she lowered her gaze to the drink between her hands, its dark amber color making it soda or ice tea.
Kyle glanced at her glass, sweaty with moisture, then edged his scrutiny back to her breasts. The lush globes wiggled slightly with each of her deep sighs. She did that a lot. He wasn't about to consider why. Riveted by her clingy top, he imagined her sweet little nipples hard and puckered, prepared for a man's mouth. So, what color were her nipples anyway? A dusky rose to match her black hair or were they pink to complement her milky skin? Unless she'd painted the areolas and tips black too.
Rather than surprising Kyle, the thought intrigued. Would they taste of licorice or chocolate or something even better, the succulent flavor of soft female flesh?
She shifted slightly and brought her hand to her top, pulling the deep V of the neck closer together, covering herself, keeping the view from him.
Busted, Kyle wasn't about to look her in the eye or encourage her in the least. Ignoring the dull, needy ache in his groin, he gave a parting glance to her fringed cowgirl boots, and turned to see the girl who'd nearly desecrated the pool table. Or rather, his pool table. For three years now, everything in Kickoff's Roadhouse belonged to him, Pete and the bank.
Bent at the waist, the girl wiggled her ass while preparing to take her next shot. The backs of her legs were seamless. Her black thong peeked from the top of her short-shorts, which bared the bottom of her ass nicely.
At any other time, Kyle might have enjoyed the view. Knowing the damage she might inflict on his table, he clenched his teeth and waited for the worst.
"Sands," Pete said, dropping his spoon into the bowl.
It clattered loudly. The girl's cue clacked against the side of the table, no doubt denting the wood with her missed shot.
"Oh shit," she moaned.
Blindly, Kyle reached behind himself for his Heineken.
Pete leaned so close Kyle could smell chili pepper and a hint of Coors on the man's breath.
"Lexi Sands," Pete said, his voice at a pitch those around them couldn't possibly overhear. "And I'm not suggesting you shack up with her. Like I said, she needs a place to stay for a couple of days, away from the publicity, the crowds, you know? No more than a week. You have an extra room in your cabin. She's willing to pay. Three grand. I did mention that, right?" He eased away and plowed ahead, not waiting for an answer. "We could use the dough for this joint."
Finished with his sip, Kyle rested the beer bottle on his hard belly, liking the cold chill that bit through his black tee to skin, cooling it. He looked over at Pete, his best friend since grade school.
They were both thirty and at six-one, Pete was nearly as tall as Kyle. That's where the similarities ended. Kyle had the build of a former quarterback, while Pete was downright scrawny despite all the greasy, calorie-rich food he cooked and tasted in The Kickoff's kitchen. With dark red hair and a face stuffed with freckles, he was scarier looking than Danny Bonaduce from that old TV show The Patridge Family.
He was also one of the few people who'd stood by Kyle during his fall from fame. On any day, at any time, Kyle would have gladly taken a bullet for Pete, but he wouldn't do this. He stated the obvious. "Your cousin could also use the money. So why can't Lexi stay with her?"
Swiping a napkin over his lips, Pete curbed his belch, his nostrils broadening with a brief expel of air. "Fiona could lose her job. She signed a pre-employment thing, promising not to talk to the tabloids about or to fraternize with the clients from Sanctuary by the Bay."
"Clients?" Kyle clocked a brow.
"It's rehab, not prison."
Easy to say for someone who'd never been there. Prescription painkillers had nearly done Kyle in during his days with the Oakland Raiders. For three years he'd been free of his addiction, that life, his ex-fiancee Denise and the complications of fame. What the clients at Sanctuary by the Bay all had in common. "If she's so famous, how come I've never heard of her?"
"You don't go to the movies and you rarely watch TV, except for sports. My guess is you've never caught her earlier films or her current show. It's called Stitch in Time by the way. It's on USA. She's won an Emmy."
Pete was positively breathless, making it sound as though Lexi had found an alternative fuel that would save their economy from the oil cartels. "And she hocked the statue to buy drugs? That's what landed her in celebrity rehab?"
"Nope." Pete balled up his napkin, dropping it in his empty bowl. Sweat dotted his splotched cheeks and forehead from the chili's heat. "She's never had a drug or alcohol problem."
This was news. Kyle recalled her drink. She'd chosen it because she didn't like liquor? She'd never gravitated towards street drugs? That was practically unheard of in Hollywood. So why rehab?
The truth hit Kyle with the force of a body slam. "You're saying she was depressed?" And being detoxed from that medication? He thought back to the way she'd kept sighing, like the world was ending. Oh shit. Pete wanted him to host a despondent and probably unstable film and TV star at his cabin? A freaking actress who was most like loopy and certainly phony on her good days?
"Depressed? No...well, maybe," Pete said. "I mean, if the court had ordered me to re-"
Kyle interrupted. "Whoa. The court ordered her to rehab?" That didn't happen every day, especially in live-and-let-live California. "Why? What the hell did she do to herself?"
"What did she threaten to do?"
"Shhh." Pete's hazel eyes darted around the crowded, snug space.
From what Kyle could see, everyone was too busy watching the game, playing pool, drinking or eating to notice them or their conversation. He spoke through his teeth. "Why was she locked up?"
"She wasn't. Well, she would have been," he admitted, "if she hadn't agreed to rehab. It was either six months in the county jail or thirty days of anger management."
Kyle started to look at her, then stopped, focusing instead on Pete. "You're serious? What happened? She sink her fangs into an ex-boyfriend?"
"The clothes and makeup she's wearing tonight are from one of Fiona's friends. Lexi only looks that way, she only dyed her hair black so n0one would know it's her. The paparazzi are a real pain, remember?"
Kyle did. More than a few times he'd lashed out at them when they'd hounded him after a particularly bad game or when Denise decided she wanted fame and fortune more than him. "She slugged one of them with his own camera?"
Pete grinned, smashing a dozen freckles into each other. "Better than that. I'll let her tell you."
"Hold on. I didn't agree."
"Just come over and meet her." Pete gestured with his right hand for Kyle to follow. "She needs our help." He mouthed, We could use the dough for this joint.
Reluctantly, Kyle moved away from the bar, glancing at his pool table as he passed. The girls were sitting on the lip, swinging their legs, drinking their beers, flirting with their guys. Unless and until they decided to use the table as a bed, Kyle wasn't about to interfere with their good time.
Walking far more slowly than he usually did, Kyle finally made it past most of the booths, stopping at the empty one prior to Lexi's. After a moment's struggle, he glanced her way.
She had her head raised to the TV, something in the game that made the other patrons shout. Although she must have sensed Pete's and his presence, she didn't look at them.
Like a voyeur, Kyle's gaze swept down her, then right back up. This close, he noticed the rosy tint to her pale skin and confirmed the color of her eyes. Blue-gray. Wary and oh-so vulnerable. Something shifted within him. Another spark of interest travelled from his chest to his groin,settling there, stiffening his cock.
Ignoring his arousal, Kyle glanced at her black nail polish and then her black lipstick, thinking it was a shame to cover her beautifully plush mouth with such a weird color even if she was trying to hide in plain sight.
Pete leaned close and whispered, "By the way, don't mention her name in public. Hey there," he said, edging closer to her and inclining his head. "This is Kyle Griffin. He co-owns this place with me."
Kyle figured he should offer her his hand, but didn't. The moment her eyes slid to him, they stalled whatever move he'd intended to make.
Never had he seen such an expressive, direct, questioning gaze. He didn't know how to answer it, except to stare. The back of his neck tingled. He forced down a swallow, then reminded himself that she was an actress. She knew how to behave with strangers, fans she'd never see again. She was putting on a show even now.
In no hurry to offer her own hand and touch him, she kept her slender fingers wrapped around her tall glass as she took in his full length. Her gaze settled briefly on his shoulders, his groin - the erection Kyle wished he didn't have - his thighs, then back to his face.
Female interest flared in her eyes, the kind of approval men have always craved.
Whether her attention was bogus or not, Kyle was no different from any other guy. His body temperature shot up several degrees, while his heart sprinted in his chest. In spite of his physical reaction, he kept his expression neutral...or so he hoped.
"Mr. Griffin," she said at last, her voice younger and sweeter than he would have imagined. More for a woman called Lexi than Vampira. "Nice to meet you," she continued. "I'll only need a week. Two at the most."
Two? His gaze slipped down her again, stopping at the ends of her hair. Pete said she'd dyed it. So what was her natural color given her fair complexion and blue-gray eyes? Strawberry blonde? Light brown? Were the delicate curls between her legs the same shade?
"Just so you know," she added, a hard edge slicing through the sweetness in her voice, "I only want a secluded place to stay. I'm not at all interested in sex."
Kyle's gaze jumped back to her. Whatever she was thinking, he couldn't read it on her face or in her eyes. "Ever?" he asked.
Her serenity cracked. Color rose to her throat and cheeks. "Allow me to clarify. I'm not interested in sex with you."
"Ever?" Pete asked.
Kyle shot him a look.