As a former Marine-turned-Hollywood director, Cole Ryder's faced many challenges, but none like this. To research his latest film, he's spending three full days (and nights) in a lush, tropical paradise with sensual survival expert Ariel Leigh, and - according to her protective, wealthy uncle - Cole is not to seduce her, romance her, or in any way touch her...not even when she oh-so-casually removes her shirt to show him how it can be used to trap fish...not even when she oh-so-uninhibitedly bathes under a waterfall...not even when her unexpected kisses and playful pillow talk just beg him to take her in his arms under a canopy of stars.
For paradise, this is starting to feel a lot like torture...
Ariel knows her doting uncle only wants her to have a real man who's worthy of her, right down to his tender, faithful heart. Until Cole, Ariel was pretty sure such a guy didn't exist. But there's no denying what she sees in Cole's gaze whenever she's near, and why she's determined to give him one last test to see if he's the one.
Oh baby, bring it on. 'Cause this former Marine isn't about to let Ariel leave his heart or his life. He's out to prove that he is the man to take her breath away...now and for the rest of their seriously sexy lives...
Romantic Times Review – 4 ½ Stars
Director Cole Ryder's next action-adventure film takes place in the tropics, an unfamiliar environment for this ex-Marine. He seeks help from Ariel, a sexy survival expert who knows the rainforest inside and out. When this tropical beauty agrees to spend a few days and nights in the rain forest with him, Cole begins thinking more about romance under the stars than survival.
Ariel's overprotective, wealthy uncle puts a glitch in Cole's plans, however. He threatens to end Cole's burgeoning career if he touches, seduces, or tempts Ariel in any way. Romancing Ariel could mean kissing his career goodbye, but it might be worth it.
Ariel knows that because of her beloved matchmaking uncle, Cole will find her irresistible. Her uncle wants a "real" man for Ariel, one who will give her undying love and everlasting fidelity. Ariel's not sure that kind of man exists outside of fairy tales, but then again, she's never met a man like Cole. The fun begins when a beguiling heroine coaxes a seductive ex-Marine into a tropical paradise. Sexy, witty dialogue and a provocative erotic plot make Donahue's latest a steamy delight. (May, 320 pp, $14.00) – Susan Mitchell
“Mark my words,” Thaddeus Leigh said. His gravelly voice rose above the noise of rustling palm leaves and the cries of brilliant-coloured macaws flying overhead. “Before this is over, you will dearly love Ariel.”
Cole Ryder did not comment on that odd pronouncement, nor did he finish lifting the bottle of Dos Equis to his lips. He actually forgot the beer as his thoughts repeated before this is over, you will dearly love Ariel?
Was Thaddeus joking? Until two minutes ago, Cole hadn’t even known that Thaddeus – the globally recognized expert in wilderness survival – had family. A niece to be precise, who was suddenly the go-to person for survival skill research since Thaddeus had suddenly retired to this tropical paradise, which he owned and called Isla de Delicia – Island of Delight.
Given the mischievous arch of Thaddeus’s grizzled white brows, Cole could see that the old guy was really delighted now. Hell, even his leathery face and neck were blushing.
Cole wasn’t about to ask why or inquire into when he would actually meet little Ariel, because he had already guessed the worst.
The girl was most likely built like him, an ex-Marine, which would be great for a survival expert, but wasn’t at all enticing in a woman. Not that Cole was particularly judgemental, on no – he was a realist. Despite her masculinity – maybe because of it – Thaddeus loved his little niece, while his little niece most likely loved the thought of meeting a writer/director because she loved the thought of a film career.
Like I can give it to her? Cole took a healthy sip of his beer and considered his limitations, the least of which was his reluctance to be saddled with Ariel.
The real problem was that he was new to the movie business himself, and had only got into it because a friend of a friend of a friend had needed some expert advice on military operations for a major film. After providing that, and his expertise on a series of military-action flicks that turned out to be huge box office, everything just kind of snowballed.
So, here he was in paradise for his very first feature film that he had almost finished writing and would eventually direct just as soon as he got some details on survival in the tropics. Details that were not going to be provided by Thaddeus Leigh, but by Ariel the survival expert, whom Cole might not survive. Damn.
Thaddeus was still looking at him expectantly, as if great things were to come, while the old guy’s contented smile said life was good.
“Everything all right, young man?” Thaddeus suddenly asked.
Cole lied. “Yes, sir, it is.”
Thaddeus’s smile finally faded as he continued to stare. “Are you quite certain?” His tone was now accusatory. “I detect a note of caution in your voice.”
Actually, it was depression.
“Not at all, sir,” Cole lied again, even as he wondered why there had to be this complication when he had so many others.
Planning a six-month military operation had never been as frustrating as planning this two-hour film, but this research, at least, should have been easy. It wasn’t as if he were totally unfamiliar with survival in the wild since he had studied it during his Force Recon days.
Of course, he never had to survive on a tropical island during his many operations – broiling desert landscapes were far more familiar to him – but even then he never had to actually live off the land. Ex-Marine or not, the thought made Cole gag. It would make his audience gag. So, he simply needed some very minor tips on island survival, which he was going to get from Ariel.
Cole pressed his fingertips against his throbbing temple. If he didn’t agree to her instruction, plus putting her into his film, Thaddeus would probably nix the idea of allowing it to be shot on this lush, delightful isle. That would add yet another problem to the hundreds of others that had already cropped up in a film that wasn’t yet into production.
And you actually believed this career would be easy, Cole told himself. He took another healthy sip of his brew, while his gaze skimmed this place.
Beyond the expanse of lush lawn, where several tables and chairs had been set up, Thaddeus’s Spanish-style villa hugged the hill above the sea. The sprawling compound was crowned with a red-tiled roof. Cluster of scarlet, purple, and yellow bougainvillea clung to the dwelling’s startling white walls and fluttered in the persistent breeze to scent the balmy air. Coconut palms and ferns were in abundance though more widely spaced than the thick foliage of the rainforest that waited from behind. There, monkeys and other wildlife played and watched. Here, the sounds of the ocean were muted as it licked a beach that looked like powdered sugar beneath the lowering sun.
Okay, Cole thought, so this is nice....but still dangerous given the old guy’s niece. Sort of like a Club Med Hell since there was no escape until his pilot returned tomorrow morning – unless, of course, Cole opted to swim to the next island.
His gaze drifted in that direction. From this vantage point that island looked like a speck of dirt in an endless sea.
He looked away. Coming here hadn’t been such a good idea after all, but Cole reminded himself that he had been in far worse situations. Not the Marines, mind you, but dealing with the suits and creative types in Hollywood. That was enough to give nightmares to a soldier of fortune. So, this couldn’t be that bad. He’d meet Ariel, whom he was going to dearly love before this was all over, be polite, listen to what she had to say, then cut out as quickly as he—
Cole’s thoughts paused when he heard the unmistakable whap-whap-whap of a helicopter in the distance. As he lifted his head and looked in the direction of that noise, Cole wondered if his pilot were returning. Had the guy forgotten something? Would it be possible to actually escape this place before—
“Ah,” Thaddeus said, his voice serene and filled with love as it cut into Cole’s thoughts, “That must be Ariel.”
Welcome to Club Med Hell. “Yes, sir,” Cole said, steeling himself for the worst as the helicopter finally came into view from behind a cluster of thickly-crowned palms, then headed straight for them.
The aircraft, at least, was sexy as hell. A sleek, black Bell 407 that effortlessly cut through the air and brought to mind strains of ominous music – something classical and Wagnerian –with lots of low tones and clashing cymbals. The kind of refrain that might have opened an old Schwarzenegger or Bruce Willis action flick. Music Cole figured he’d use, along with this scene of a helicopter coming closer, closer, closer as it opened his political-military thriller and gave a hint of what was to come once the insurgents – or in this case Ariel – landed.
“She’s quite good at that, isn’t she?” Thaddeus shouted above the noise.
Cole looked at the old guy. Thaddeus was holding onto his Panama hat, while his weathered face was raised to that copter as it reached the helipad to the left of this area.
“Good at what?” Cole shouted.
“Why flying that helicopter, of course!”
Ariel pilots helicopters? Cole glanced to the side and saw the silhouette of only one body in that bird. Well, what do you know. Not only was she piloting the thing, she was landing it pretty damned well, too.
Glancing up from that flawless descent, Cole tried to see details of her, but was out of luck – or maybe in luck. Who knew? The next few minutes were pure torture as the blades of that copter slowly whap-whap-whapped to a stop. During this, Ariel leaned down until she was completely out of sight as she fiddled with something inside the cabin.
“Patience,” Thaddeus said.
Cole pretended not to hear.
“She’ll join us in good time,” Thaddeus added.
That’s what Cole was afraid of as the door to that copter finally popped open and Ariel stepped outside.
She was immediately surrounded by Thaddeus’s housekeeping staff that had run across the lawn to the helipad. As Ariel came around the copter door and bent at the waist to lower something to the ground she was again obstructed from view.
Cole wondered if that were a good omen...or maybe a bad omen of things to-
His thoughts suddenly paused as the staff moved aside just as Ariel straightened.
Thaddeus called out, “Please be certain you get those books she’s brought to me!”
The staff chorused a “Yes, sir!”
Thaddeus leaned toward Cole. “Ariel’s found a simply delightful bookstore that deals in rare volumes.”
Cole nodded absently to that.
Thaddeus shouted more directives to his staff, the gist of which escaped Cole. Lowering the bottle of beer from his lips, he pushed up in his chair as his gaze simply prowled over Ariel Leigh.
Patience, Thaddeus had said.
Not a chance, Cole thought. He couldn’t explore every part of her quickly enough. She was a tall women, probably five-ten, with a sleek and well-toned body that was a delicious caramel color from days spent outdoors. As she moved fully into the sun now it intensified the color of her hair. That reddish-gold mane was worn in a thick braid, while delicate tendrils danced over her tawny cheeks with the constant breeze.
Warmth continued to flood through Cole, settling in his groin.