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On an uncharacteristic whim, an obsessive, uptight woman vacations at an island resort where she learns to surrender to her disorderly, capricious, and wanton inner self.
Briana’s pristine life has recently gone downhill after she realized her perfect marriage was a sham. Weighed down by the burdens of her impending divorce, this “starter wife” calls the number printed on a postcard for a limited-time offer at an exotic island retreat. Upon arriving at the fantasy sex resort, Briana is confronted with all of her old hang-ups. Desperately wanting to change, she throws herself into the wildly erotic pleasures presented to her—freeing herself from her heartbreaking past and the inhibitions that have always held her back in life.
Read an Excerpt
Briana fingered the lei that hung around her neck, thankful the scent of the blooms didn’t overpower the perfume she’d dabbed at her wrists the way the bright, red-orange hibiscus blooms overwhelmed her conservative sage-green-and-beige-patterned suit.
She still felt wilted from the heat that had risen from the runway as she’d deplaned and the fatigue from the long flight that slowly eroded her confidence.
That morning, as she said her farewell to Heather at the Dallas airport, she pushed aside her anxiety, letting her friend’s enthusiasm and her own breathless anticipation buoy her along. She ignored the fact her suitcase was mostly empty—at Heather’s urging—since she didn’t own a thing that went with an island adventure.
Defiant pride and a flight schedule that specified every step kept her in her seat for that first leg and kept her rushing toward the gate at LAX. Only when she’d landed at The Big Island and approached the little airplane with the slender twin propellers did her fears begin to gnaw at her gut.
She’d never taken a trip like this on her own. She didn’t really know what to expect, and Briana didn’t like surprises. So, what was she doing embarking on an adventure when she should be preparing for a fight over her home and laying plans for her suddenly wide-open future? Already suffering from unease at her unfamiliar surroundings, her anxieties compounded, one dreadful scenario overlaying another in her mind until she felt ill, her stomach knotting and her pulse escalating until she thought her heart would explode.
It was just a panic attack. She knew the symptoms well, having suffered from anxiety-driven terrors since she was a teen facing final exams after her father had abandoned her mother and her. Back then, she’d fought them back, using every visualization technique she could muster from library books.
Now, the image of the man standing under the palm tree, his bronze skin and dark, watchful expression was the one she chose to cling to, although it shouldn’t have calmed her. He should have scared her half to death; he seemed so foreign to her world. Still, she’d kept her seat on the plane and hadn’t run screaming when the heavy, hatch door closed on her final leg.
She could do this. It was just three days. She could stay inside her hotel room for the duration, staring at the things she’d brought to make her room feel familiar and homey to keep herself centered.
However, sitting in that plane with two other women who were travelling to Ka-le’a Island had brought her plummeting down the rest of the way. Slamming home the theme that played through her mind the entire journey—that she was completely out of her element. Completely set adrift. Alone. No way did she belong in their company.
For one thing, both wore clothing tailored to their bodies with expensive designer-brand accessories. Just the shoes the woman sitting nearest to her wore had to cost as much as Briana had spent on updating her entire wardrobe the previous fall.
Then there were their attitudes.
The smug confidence of the woman beside her had made Briana feel like an awkward kitten next to a sleek lioness. The other woman, with her dark exotic features and flamboyant clothing, set her teeth on edge with every loud complaint. She acted as though deferential treatment was her due.
Briana was completely discomfited and felt as ordinary as mud beside them both. She accepted a cup of coffee and a creamy éclair to refocus, definitely not because she was hungry. Still, she’d started to fidget, opening her bag to check its contents over and over.
So often, she must have annoyed the woman beside her because her gaze pinned her, her lips lifting in a
grimace, making Briana so nervous she’d dropped the purse. When she’d leaned down to pick it up, the other woman bent as well, causing Briana to gasp and jerk up her head.
They’d bumped heads.
The woman’s smile as she straightened hadn’t reached her eyes and didn’t give Briana a hint of what she intended. She bent closer and pressed her full lips to Briana’s. When the woman’s warm, wet tongue slid over hers, taking crumbs and cream she didn’t know were there, Briana had sat frozen in shock, her heart pounding, not sure to this moment whether she or the other woman had returned the purse to her lap.
She’d spent the remainder of the flight with her hands gripping the armrests, refusing to look anywhere but straight ahead and fighting the urge to gargle with Purel.
Still, she was honest enough with herself to acknowledge that she’d felt a tremor deep in her core. She’d been shocked, yes, but also terribly excited. That kiss, although likely intended as a mocking insult, had driven home what this getaway was all about—an elicit adventure.
Was she really ready for it when one little kiss from a stranger had driven the air right out of her lungs?
Thankfully, once they arrived on the runway, separate vehicles awaited to speed the women away to their destinations. Neither woman was in sight when Briana stepped into the exquisitely appointed lobby of what had been described to her as a “secondary” hotel on the island. One glance around at her surroundings and her stomach plummeted farther. She didn’t belong here. Not among furnishings and people whose low-stated elegance denoted money—lots of it.
The lobby was enormous with a ceiling hovering twenty feet above her. Natural stone and thick, jute-colored carpeting covered the floor. Warm teak-paneled walls surrounded the room. A dozen slowly oscillating fans suspended from the high ceiling moved the air-conditioned air. Elegant and informal low-backed leather couches and carved, teak and ebony side tables invited guests to linger. Recessed lighting shone on the long obsidian countertop where the receptionist handed out keys and folded messages to the guests who crowded in front of her.
In the crush of well-dressed new arrivals and scurrying staff, Briana felt panic rise again to palpitate against her chest and temples. Then she noted other guests—scantily clad guests—trailing through a darkened door at the rear of the lobby and guessed it must be a bar by the blare of music that escaped each time the door opened.
She blinked, not believing her eyes, as one woman turned to reveal a pareo knotted at her waist—the only clothing she wore, unless you counted the large red blossom tucked behind her ear.
Briana’s heart beat faster. Would she be expected to parade half-nude in front of complete strangers?
“Briana Neeson?” a masculine voice spoke from behind her.
She swallowed her growing panic and turned slowly. Her gaze rose to find a pair of familiar chocolate eyes that narrowed as his gaze swept down her body. She didn’t mind his inspection because it gave her a moment to catch a shallow, ragged breath.
This was the man in the postcard—the one Heather had said would be her “island guide.” Not that she’d believed her for a moment. Not on her budget. But here he stood in the flesh and even more beautiful than that glossy first impression.
He was taller than she’d imagined, too, standing so close his height forced her head back to meet his dark gaze. His features were the same, but somehow more deeply masculine. Flecks of gold swam in the chocolate of his irises. His jaw seemed more square and firm, his lips a shade fuller. Long, thick locks weren’t completely black; reddish glints shone where the light coming through ice blocks beneath the pitched ceiling touched them.
More compelling and breath-stealing than she’d imagined, he stole her full attention, made her yearn for the sensual promise curving in his lips and burning in his eyes.
Her only disappointment was his attire. He didn’t wear the colorful pareo from the postcard. Instead, wash-softened blue jeans encased his long legs, and a loose, linen shirt stretched across broad shoulders, but hung loosely from his neck to the tops of his wrists and hips.
At last, she remembered his question. “Yes, I’m Briana Neeson.”
His gaze hadn’t finished giving her a similar, thorough inspection. “Soft lips, softer blue eyes…” A slow inhalation lifted his chest and then his nose wrinkled. “But such an ugly suit.”
Although his tone was gentle and his expression seemed guileless, she bristled, squaring her shoulders.
“There’s not a thing wrong with my suit. It’s Chanel—”
“A knock-off and something a PTA mom in Dallas might wear, hmm?”
“I’m not a mom,” she blurted, before she realized he knew where she came from. Of course, the resort’s booking agency must have provided her itinerary.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I didn’t mean to offend. But something so old-fashioned, so reserved for a vibrant, lovely woman…”
The deep, rumbling texture of his voice felt like a sensual caress, soothing her affront. While his double-edged compliment embarrassed her, she decided not to take offense. Perhaps he didn’t know all that much about women—didn’t know how much to heart they could take a simple observation.
Still, she’d ditch the suit later. “No, I’m sorry.” She gave him a small, tight smile. “I guess I’m just tired.”
“And feeling a little overwhelmed?”
A brief flash of dazzling white teeth left her dazed.
“This place is always crazy when new guests arrive.”
She sighed and blew at the lone blond curl that floated in front of her eyes. The humidity was already kinking her straightened “do.” “How do you know that I’m feeling overwhelmed? Do I look like a complete mouse?” A hint of challenge in his steady gaze made her stiffen. “First, an insult, then an apology. Are you playing with me?”
His dark brows lifted. “I don’t know you well enough for that…yet. And you still have a choice to make.”
She shook her head. “I gave my preferences when I booked the trip.”
“But you haven’t yet decided whether you want my services or intend to fly solo.”
Services? Dear Lord, just the word built an image in her mind of him stripped to a loincloth, his dark head dipping between her thighs. She stilled. Hell, she’d never really enjoyed oral sex, so why that particular image? Men didn’t really like it, or so Jonathan had always said.
That couldn’t be what he’d meant. She shook her head. “I feel like this is a big game, and I’m the only one who doesn’t understand the rules.”
“No rules here, Briana,” he purred. “Only pleasure…if you will allow me to guide you. But you must freely choose to allow me certain liberties.” He extended his hand, palm up. “Come with me?”
And because she secretly yearned for the freedom he mentioned, she drew a deep breath for courage and carefully placed her palm against his, sighing again as he gently enfolded her hand. She could sanitize it after she reached her room.
“You need a little quiet time before the banquet. To prepare.”
“There’s going to be a banquet?” she asked, feeling a little foolish because he hadn’t made a move, just stood holding her hand as people moved around them.
“A luau will welcome our new guests tonight. I’ll take you to your bungalow.”
“But my bags…”
“Are mostly empty, are they not? Will you allow me to choose something from our guest shop for you to wear?”
She nodded. He’d do the choosing? At least he’d have some clue what might be appropriate.
He stood perfectly still, his chest barely lifting with his breaths, his features perfectly controlled. As though he waited for some signal.
“I didn’t have time to pack,” she added, feeling breathless the longer he stared. “And I had no idea what to buy if I did have the time. Thanks for offering.”
His smile seemed approving, and she relaxed a little, relieved she’d given him the response he wanted.
“It will be my pleasure to dress you,” he said, his deep voice a quiet, sonorous hum that vibrated down her spine and curled deliciously around her womb.
She blushed, heat burning her cheeks and seeping down her throat to spread across her upper chest. Thank goodness her upper body was clothed. He’d think her completely out of place among all these worldly people if the mere mention of his “dressing her” could set fire to her entire body.
But it wasn’t just his words or tone that thrilled her.
The stillness, the tension tightening his lips and jaws, the watchfulness of the gaze that searched her face, then slipped down her body again, made her tremble…made her hot.
Glancing around at the swelling crowd, she knew she couldn’t begin to pretend the easy attitude they all seemed to possess. They appeared to have no qualms about baring skin to complete strangers and laughed freely without worrying whether they sounded like braying horses or showed too much gum.
“You didn’t mean it the way that sounded, right?” she blurted. “About dressing me, I mean?” Damn, the heat in her cheeks intensified. She wished she didn’t have a habit of vomiting every single thought.
The smile that lifted the corners of his lips did nothing to slow her heartbeats, but he turned, giving her a chance to collect her scattered thoughts.
He led her to an elevator, and her fingers curved around the edge of his palm. “The hotel is built on a slope of the volcano. We’ll need to take the elevator down a couple levels to reach the beach. You’ll have your own private bungalow for the duration of your stay.”
When the doors slid shut, she pulled her hand from his and crept slowly backward until her hips met the rail at the rear of the carriage. With a jerky move, she put her hands behind her to grip the rail. Elevators made her feel clammy and light-headed.
Her “guide” tilted his head and studied her, a question in his eyes. Then he knelt suddenly. “Step out of your shoes.”
His question made her forget her fears as the elevator began its smooth descent. “Why?”
“Will you question everything I say?”
“Probably. I’m not very intuitive. A real handicap for a woman, it seems.”
“How about you pretend you’re not frightened of me? Step out of your shoes.”
Her lips clamped shut, but she lifted a foot and let him slide off one shoe, then allowed him to repeat the process with the other. They were just shoes, and his hands hadn’t so much as touched her heels.
When he slipped his hands beneath her skirt, she squealed, but he paid her no mind, skimming his palms up her thighs and higher.
“What are you doing?” she said, her voice rising to an unpleasant pitch.
“Removing these pantyhose. How else will you walk barefoot on the beach?” His fingers curled beneath the waistband of her hose and slowly tugged them down.
Briana’s fingers curved tighter around the bar behind her, and she pressed her thighs together—as much of a protest against his advances as she could manage, given her legs trembled and her breaths hitched. She had been inside the hotel less than ten minutes, and already her sexual adventure had begun. She wasn’t mentally prepared to accept the intimacy. Maybe she’d been dreaming to think she ever would be.
When his hands slid down to mid-thigh, he looked up, one side of his lips tipping upward. “You want the doors to open while my hands are still hidden under your skirt?”
Her eyes widened, and she slowly opened her thighs, allowing him to skim his warm palms down her legs. The sensation was decadent. “Are you always this free with the guests?” she said, forcing out the words past frozen vocal cords.
“Only with the ones who need my help.”
“I would have managed just fine if you’d given me a little warning.”
While his gaze remained steady, his lips twitched. “But I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself as much.”
“Oh,” she said breathlessly.
He rose until he stood in front of her, so close she could feel heat radiating from his skin. “Your skin is as soft as I imagined,” he murmured.
Briana swallowed the moan rising at the back of her throat. The man was only teasing, knowing he’d thrown her.
“I want the jacket, too.”
“B-but it’s part of a set.”
“You don’t need ‘sets’ here. Fewer clothes the better. If you didn’t notice it before, it’s warm outside.”
Hot as hell inside here, too.
His fingers lifted, pausing just above the first bronze button at the front of her jacket. One dark brow arched, awaiting her consent.
“I can manage on my own,” she said in a choked voice.
A cluck of his tongue was his only comment, and he deftly slipped the buttons free one at a time until the jacket fell open. A knuckle grazed her breast. His gaze darted to hers.
Her breath caught. Again. He was going to think she was asthmatic in addition to being brain-damaged.
“Let go of the rail so I can slide this off.”
What will prevent me from sliding straight to the floor? she wondered, closing her eyes as his hands smoothed the jacket over her shoulders and down her arms.
She let go of the bar and let him strip the jacket away just as a bell sounded, and the doors swished open.
Briana blinked at the bright sunshine that lit the opening behind him, limning him in golden light. He lifted a hand, and she slowly slid hers along his palm, this time too dazed to hesitate, allowing him to pull her out of the elevator and onto the sand.
Her toes sank into the fine, warm grit, and her lips slowly curved. “That feels amazing,” she breathed.
The pressure of his fingers increased, the slight acknowledgment of her pleasure a soothing balm to her wounded spirit after so much rejection. Happily, she breathed deeply, dragging in the scent of the ocean breeze and the flowers that bloomed in profusion along the trail leading toward the beach.
“It’s not far,” he said over his shoulder, tugging her along behind him.
“I’m to have my own bungalow?” she asked, falling into step behind him, not wanting to think about the expense of private accommodations, but worried nonetheless.
“Yes, it was included in your package. We thought you’d be more comfortable there, away from the others.”
“Will I have it completely to myself?”
“Only if you wish to be alone.”
“I’m not sure I understand what this is all about. This place. Is it some sort of private club?”
“Not a club. Not really a resort. It’s a fantasy, Briana. I can call you that, can’t I?”
Since he was holding her hand and had already felt her up beneath her clothing, she didn’t quibble about another familiarity. “That’s fine with me.” A shock ran through her. “What’s your name?” she asked, realizing for the first time a complete stranger had stripped away her pantyhose.
“My name’s Malaki.”
Mah-lah-kee, she silently repeated. “Is that Hawaiian?”
“I’m originally from Samoa.”
That explained his height, she supposed, thinking of The Rock’s imposing body. Although she usually thought of Samoans as more thickly built. “How did you come to work here?”
“You think this is a job for me?”
“Aren’t you employed as an island guide?”
“If that’s what makes you feel more comfortable, then yes.” A grin spread his lips, and he winked. “That’s my job. To guide you.”
The way he said that, humor lacing his words, made her feel a little uncomfortable like she didn’t quite get the joke. “Your picture was on the postcard I received.”
“I was chosen, especially for you.”
“Right…” she drawled, feeling more confident as she stretched her strides. “But what if I had decided not to come? Would you have been ‘chosen’ for another lady who accepted?”
“My picture was only included on your invitation.”
She shook her head, not believing it for a minute, but she let it slide. So, they wanted to add a little mystical mystery to her trip. A special little bonus for the price she’d paid. “Just what does an ‘island guide’ do for the guest?”
“Whatever is needed.”
The woodland trail opened onto the beach, and Briana slowed her steps to stare around her. The same curved stretch of sand as was pictured in the postcard stretched in front of her. She turned and glanced at the palm trees lining the beach.
The palms weren’t perfectly spaced, and several leaned as though bracing against a heavy wind. “The picture was a little deceptive,” she murmured.
“Am I not everything you thought I’d be?” Malaki said beside her.
Briana dragged her gaze from the trees and let her glance flicker over him, not lingering too long over any part of his beautifully made frame. “I was talking about the trees,” she said, forcing out the words as her chest constricted once again.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Why would you think I gave you any thought at all?” Soft laughter drifted around her, and again Briana felt self-conscious. “How far is this bungalow anyway?”
When she turned back toward the trees, she discovered a small, white plaster structure with a thatched roof, tucked beneath the palms and framed by a lush garden. A stone path led to the front door. How had she not seen it before? “It’s lovely. Are you sure it’s mine?”
“For the length of your stay with us, yes.”
Malaki released her hand, and she stepped onto the path, heading straight for the front door.
“Wouldn’t you like to test the waters first?” he said behind her.
Briana cast a glance over her shoulder toward the waves lapping gently against the sandy beach. The thought was terribly tempting, and she felt a stab of disappointment. “I haven’t a suit. I need to pick one up at the guest shop first.”
One dark brow arched. “You’re wearing a bra and panties, aren’t you?”
Her thighs tightened against a thrill that shot through her. Still, she couldn’t… “They’re white,” she said flatly. “They’d be completely transparent as soon as they got wet.”
“This little strip of beach is private. No one will see.”
Her gaze flitted to meet his, then slid away. “You will.”
His lips curved, and he dropped her jacket and pantyhose on the pathway. Then his hands went to the hem of his shirt, and he pulled the garment over his head and dropped it beside her clothing.
Their clothes, intermingled on the ground, gave her a startling little thrill—before the urge to swipe them up and fold them dampened her excitement. Briana shook her head. “Enjoy your swim,” she said, her voice tightening as his smooth, lean chest was revealed.
When his thumb flicked open the waist of his jeans, she turned away, not able to pretend a sophisticated indifference she didn’t possess. “I’ll just take a look around inside. Until my bags arrive.” She bent to scoop up her discarded clothing and held them against her chest like a shield.
“Briana,” he said softly, drawing her gaze. “Maybe later, then?” He pushed his jeans down his nicely muscled legs.
When he straightened, Briana swayed, feeling a little lightheaded.
The man stood completely nude.
Her mouth dried instantly. “Later?” she asked, not remembering what he’d just said. Her mind was completely consumed with the length of cock that rose slowly between his legs.
Long, thick and satiny smooth…she was convinced she’d never seen a more beautiful one, not that she was terribly experienced, but she couldn’t imagine anything more perfectly made.
It rose straight, not a single turn or kink. Bronze colored with a ruddy tip. The sac appearing beneath his rising dick was also smooth, brown, and tucked close to his groin.
His hands swept outward, drawing her fascinated gaze from his appendage. “I don’t mind you looking…or touching me.”
Briana wished she had the nerve to approach him, to reach out and cup his balls to test their weight and discover the texture of the skin stretched around them. More, she wished she could skim her fingers along the length of his shaft, rub her thumb over the plump, bulbous tip, and lean in closer to inhale the scent of his musk.
The hint of his aroma that had surrounded her inside the elevator when he’d stood close and his body heated hers had held traces of the ocean, pure unscented soap, and a light male musk she found entirely too enticing.
But she didn’t have any condoms in her purse. They were carefully stashed inside her suitcase, and she couldn’t touch him without a barrier. She wasn’t sure she’d have the nerve to try it even if she did have one stashed inside a pocket.
Suddenly, she felt like crying. The most beautiful man she’d ever seen in the flesh waited for her to take a swim, and she was too afraid to take the risk. Too afraid to release her inhibitions and simply let herself go along with his suggestion.
Heather would be groaning with disappointment.
Jonathan would just shake her head, well aware of her inability to relax and just live for the moment.
Malaki took a step closer, and Briana stiffened, but forced herself not to retreat. His hand lifted slowly, and his palm cupped her cheek. “It’s all right. We have time.” His chin lifted, pointing toward the cottage. “Go inside and bathe. Your clothing for tonight will be delivered. Wear only what I send.”
Then his hand dropped, enabling her to draw a breath. She immediately missed the warmth of it against her skin.
“I’m in way over my head,” she whispered to herself as he ran into the surf and dove beneath a curling wave.