Posted by Lexxie Couper on Monday, September 3rd, 2012
So, to whet your appetite, here’s the second half of Chapter One (the first half is over at the Down Under Diva’s blog HERE). Enjoy…
Kennedy Collins hated butterflies. She knew it was a stupid, ridiculous phobia, but there it was all the same. Lepidopterophobia. The fear of butterflies and moths. Not spiders or snakes or sharks or axe-wielding psychopaths, but butterflies. Freaking flittery-fluttery little winged things no one in their right mind would be scared of. Kennedy was scared of them, though. Absolutely petrified of them. And Australian butterflies were worse. Who knew if they were as deadly and dangerous as the rest of the godforsaken wildlife in the country? Which meant she ran like a demon was on her tail when the multicolored little flittery-fluttery winged thing had flittered and fluttered its malevolent way into her suite through the open patio door just as she was about to go have a shower.
Ran like the petrified lunatic she was, leaving her recently worn yoga clothes on the floor behind her, her heart racing, her mouth dry, her pulse pounding. Fled her suite like a wimp, away from the unpredictable menacing butterfly, any hope of rational thought destroyed by unhinged terror.
Unhinged terror that now saw her standing—naked as the day she was born—outside her suite. Outside her suite, for Pete’s sake. Outside her suite naked and in the direct path of two tall, stunned men. Well, one stunned man and one grinning…
Kennedy’s flustered thoughts screamed to a halt. God save her, the stunned man was Luke Beasley.
Her heart—already smashing into her throat with abject terror—smashed some more. “Luke!” she burst out, throwing herself into the massive Australian’s arms. It didn’t matter that she’d snuck out of the guy’s hotel room four months ago after a night of wild sex and hadn’t spoken to him since. It didn’t matter that he probably didn’t remember her, due to the copious number of drinks they’d consumed in the New York bar in which they’d met. It didn’t matter, because there was a goddamn butterfly in her room, a goddamn butterfly, and he was a firefighter, and firefighters saved people, and she needed saving, and he was going to save her, and she was—
Two strong hands wrapped around her upper arms, and Kennedy yelped. Her heart continued its wrecking-ball attitude in her throat and she plastered herself against Luke’s hard body. The butterfly? What if the butterfly—
“You know her, convict?”
Another voice joined Luke’s rumble, deep and cut with a crisp British accent, but Kennedy didn’t care. “Luke,” she all but cried, “there’s a…oh God, help me there’s a…” An image of the butterfly flashed through her mind, malicious and demonic and tiny and colorful, and her throat seized up. She clung to the man she’d had the most wicked one-night stand with four months ago, her mouth working but nothing coming out of it.
Serious brown eyes gazed down at her. The hands on her arms tightened. “Jesus, Kennedy, you look terrified. What’s going on?”
She tried to tell him. Tried to vocalize the words, but at the mere thought of the winged creature in her suite her belly knotted, her tongue thickened, and all she could do was shake her head and cling to him.
“Is there someone in your room?” Luke’s expression turned dark. Dangerous. “Did someone attack—” His fingers dug into her arms with brutal pressure for a split second and then he was letting her go, spinning away to barge into her suite.
Followed immediately by the other man.
Kennedy staggered back a step. Her blood roared in her ears. A rational part of her mind knew they thought she’d been attacked by a person. That they’d stormed into her suite looking for a rapist. Instead they would find a butterfly and—
Ice-cold terror sank into her belly, and she staggered back another step. Only to squeal and leap forward when her naked ass brushed against something soft and—
“Kennedy?” Luke bolted from the room, his stare swinging wildly around her. “Where is he? Where—”
She jerked her stare from the fern frond behind her and shook her head. No, her whole body shook. She stared at him, knowing she was naked, knowing she was ridiculous, but incapable of doing anything but shake. If only she could—
Luke spun to face the other man appearing at Kennedy’s suite door. “Did you find anything?”
The other man, a leaner version of Luke with dark hair instead of blond and blue eyes instead of brown, gave Kennedy a quick look. His eyebrows pulled together. “Not exactly.”
Kennedy’s belly rolled. She tried to step away, but Luke stopped her, one large, muscled arm snaking around her waist, his other covering her breasts. If she weren’t so sick with fear she’d be grateful. “What do you mean, not exactly? She didn’t just run out of her room naked for nothing.”
The other man flicked her a sorry look, his eyebrows knitting together some more. “Not for nothing, cousin.”
He lifted his arm. Kennedy cried out, fighting against Luke’s arms, squeezing her eyes shut. No. No, no, no. She had to get away. From the butterfly. From the—
“Steady, love,” the Brit said. “It’s just a towel.”
Kennedy opened her eyes and stared at the wide strip of fluffy white toweling in the man’s extended hand.
She let out a wobbly breath, reaching around Luke to take the towel. She gave the Brit a slow smile and wrapped the towel around her body. Her heart still thumped hard in her throat, her blood still roared in her ears, and her belly was still knotted so tightly she wanted to throw up. But somehow, with Luke holding her, his massive body just as hard and solid as it had been four months ago, maybe more so, she could hold her ground.
Luke’s fingers pressed beneath her chin, forcing her to look up at him. “Kennedy, what’s going on?”
“She has a fear of butterflies, cousin,” the Brit said, his voice smooth and gentle.
Luke’s eyebrows shot up his forehead. “A what?”
She trembled. Oh man, this was not how she’d anticipated her first day at work. When she’d accepted the job as official photographer on Bandicoot Cove, a job vied for by more than one professional photographer she knew, she’d never imagined the job would come with dangers. Nor bring her face to face with her greatest fear and Luke Beasley. All on the same day.
“A fear of butterflies,” his cousin continued. “Otherwise known as lepidopterophobia?”
Luke twisted about to frown at him. “Lepidowhatia?”
The other man’s eyes twinkled with mirth, and despite the ludicrous situation, Kennedy felt a tight heat low in the junction of her thighs. She bit back a soft gasp. It had to be the situation causing it. The adrenaline rush, the fact she was naked under the towel, Luke’s reappearance in her life…what else would explain it?
“Lepidopterophobia, convict,” Luke’s cousin repeated, his gaze holding Kennedy’s. “A fear of butterflies.”
Luke swung his stare back to her, the tension in his face and body softening. “Really?”
She nodded, a single, jerky dip of her head. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t…” She stopped, the shameful truth of the situation slamming into her.
Oh God, she’d run from her suite as naked as the day she was born and thrown herself into the arms of an Australian she’d known for a grand total of four hours and forty-two minutes.
And his cousin—a complete stranger to her—had witnessed the whole thing.
“I have to go.” Fire flooded her face, and she ducked her head. Or tried to. Luke’s fingers under her chin made it impossible. She looked everywhere but at the two men. “I have a meeting to get to.”
Luke’s fingers slipped from her chin. “A meeting?”
She wrapped her arms around her waist and stepped back from him. She wasn’t in control of her body at the moment. Fear and adrenaline were messing with her. What other reason for the way her pulse quickened to a frenzied pace at his closeness?
Because he fucks like a demon, and you haven’t been able to forget—
“I work here,” she blurted out, killing the unsettling thought. “I’m the resort’s photographer.”
Luke’s nostrils flared. “Since when?”
Kennedy swallowed. Why did his question sound strained?
“Yesterday. I mean, today. I…I arrived yesterday and…and start today.” She looked at his cousin, her heart thumping faster in her chest. “Can…can you get rid of the but…butterfly, please?”
A slow smile curled the Brit’s lips, and a distant part of Kennedy’s mind, the part not unhinged by the damn thing in her suite, noticed how sexy he was. “Your wish is my command, my lady.”
He bowed at the waist, a grin playing with his lips, and then disappeared back into her suite.
She stared at the open doorway. Partly because she was petrified the butterfly was going to swoop out at her on silent wings and flutter near her head if she didn’t. Partly to avoid looking at Luke Beasley. What did she say to him? I’m sorry I screwed your brains out and took off while you were having a shower?
“Are you going to look at me, Kennedy?”
Kennedy’s throat squeezed tight at his low question. Her breath grew shallow.
“I mean, you do owe me an explanation, after all.”
She gnawed at her bottom lip and tugged the towel higher up her chest.
“One second we were talking about ordering room service, the next you were gone.”
Dragging her stare from the cavernous interior of her temporary residence, she turned her attention to the hulking Australian firefighter beside her.
His gaze was fixed on her face, his jaw bunched. He crossed arms the size of tree trunks over his equally muscular chest. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought we had a connection.” He paused, a moment of discomfort flickering on his face. “Apart from incredible sex, that is.”
Kennedy’s pussy constricted at his words, uttered with that sexy Australian accent that had drawn her to him in the New York bar all those month ago. Incredible was an understatement. The man had taken her to places she believed existed only in porn films. In fact, she was ninety-nine percent certain the people in the hotel room next to Luke’s had thought they were making a porn film, what with the noises Kennedy was making. But the night she’d met Luke was the night she’d been dumped by her boyfriend of two years for being too “kinky”, and Luke was Rebound Guy. Rebound Guy wasn’t meant to be Incredible-Sex-and-Unexpected-Connection Guy. He was meant to be See?-I-Am-Desirable-So-Stick-It-In-Your-Ear Guy. That’s what Rebound Guy was all about. And then Luke had gone and asked her if she wanted to visit the Statue of Liberty with him the next day and the word “yes” had been so damn close to forming on her lips she’d freaked out.
Freaked out and run away.
And now here she was, with him again. Thanks to freaking out and running away.
There was a perverse irony in that fact, but she was too freaked out to analyze it.
“Are you going to say anything?”
The rough edge of anger in Luke’s voice scraped against her fraying control. She lifted her chin, meeting his stare.
Damn, she wished she hadn’t. His gaze was as intense and focused and…and…as sexy as it had been four months ago.
Her throat grew thick. Her pussy grew tight.
“You were Rebound Guy.”
The confession slipped from her before she could stop it. Luke’s eyes widened. His shoulders straightened. So did his spine. He studied her, a muscle twitching in his jaw, his stare unreadable as he opened his mouth to say…
His cousin chose that exact moment to exit Kennedy’s suite.
“Got the little bugger.” He stopped at the door, his hands cupped together, his grin wide. “A red-bodied swallowtail, to be pre…” A frown pulled at his forehead. “What did I miss?”
A dry snort tore from Luke, and he shook his head, stepping back from Kennedy. “Nothing.”
His cousin obviously didn’t believe him, based on his own snort—this one so close to a laugh Kennedy almost smiled herself.
But she couldn’t. And not just because of Luke. Because of the creature in his cousin’s hand.
Oh God, Kennedy. He’s got it. It’s there. Just there in his…
She flicked her stare to the Brit’s long-fingered hands, still cupped in front of his chest. Inside that prison of palm and fingers was a butterfly. The butterfly that had sent her fleeing.
Her pulse thumped hard in her neck. She licked her lips, jerking her gaze from his hands, to his face, to Luke’s face and back to the Brit’s hands again. “Can you…will you take it away…?”
His lips curled. The mirth in his eyes turned to a smoldering interest Kennedy couldn’t miss, no matter how scared she was. “Of course.” He leaned one bent elbow on Luke’s broad shoulder, his hands shifting slightly as he did so. Enough for Kennedy to make out movement behind his fingers. Her heart leapt into her throat.
And then pounded harder and faster when he said, “For a kiss.”
Her stare snapped to his face.
His grin turned languid. Sexy.
“For us both,” he finished.
For the first half of Chapter One, head on over to the Down Under Divas’ blog HERE :)
Check out the other books in the Bandicoot Cove: The Wedding series by Jess Dee and Sami Lee.
Go on. Who can say no to a tropical island resort?