It was the most intense flight Corinne had endured thus far. After making her rounds to check on each passenger, Corinne returned to the stewardess seat and crossed her legs. The plane had been airborne for an hour, and Xavier was fast asleep. Corinne knew he must’ve been exhausted, but he refused to rest like a normal human being and recharge. She surmised he was a machine, driven by adrenaline and the basic key nutrition that would keep him invigorated. Corinne drove a lackadaisical eye over Xavier. With his head inclined against the seat and his eyes drawn to a close, she drew a blueprint of the schematics of his charming face, leaving no detail excluded. It held a soft edge in his sleep, and his chest pushed and pulled quietly as he breathed. Her eyes rode down the colossal mastery of his muscular arms that were propped on the rests of the chair at the elbows. In his lap, Xavier’s hands gathered, and his fingers linked to rest against his brown leather Saint Laurent belt.
Corinne’s tongue tasted the corners of her mouth as she continued to peruse him, and his toned thighs made the jeans, not the other way around. At his feet, his ankles were crossed, and the Reeboks were so crisp they appeared as if he’d just pulled them from the box. Corinne had never felt so turned on by a man resting peacefully in his slumber, and for a long minute, she contemplated what it must be like to be the leading lady in his life. Could she withstand the lens they would surely be under once word spread that they were dating? Could she compare to the women he’d dated previously, models, actresses, and royalty? Corinne drifted off in such a daze that she didn’t notice when Xavier’s eyes fluttered open, and his lids hovered, just slightly taking in her full beauty. He watched her watching him without Corinne’s awareness. He wondered what was going on in that pretty little head of hers as his gaze journeyed over her face.
The uniform she wore didn’t own her, and although it was professional, her curves would not be hidden. Corinne sat posed with a silky brown leg crossed over the other. The fullness in her thighs traveled to her hips, and they curved like the stroke of a painter’s brush. Xavier’s skin tingled with a sulfuric heat, instantly, like he’d been smacked with it. Her beauty was unparalleled to anyone he’d ever laid eyes on, but what stirred him the most was her unmoving attitude, and he wanted to know her inside and out.
“What’s on your mind, beautiful?”
Corinne’s daze was snagged when his profound voice scurried over her skin. She squirmed in her seat, and her eyes met his thick, penetrating stare.
“Good morning,” Camilla replied. She glanced around the bistro, noting the bustling activity. “It seems you have a full house.”
The hostess looked around as if she hadn’t notice.
“I have a special spot just for you,” the hostess sang.
Camilla perked. “I’m following,” she sang back.
The hostess put on a bright smile. “Right this way.” She turned with a sharp twist and meandered easily through the restaurant.
A few busboys passed them as they headed for a table to the far right of the eatery. “Excuse me,” one said as he scurried around Camilla, wiping a hand on the neatly folded apron tied around his waist.
“How’s this,” the hostess said, stopping at a small table.
“You did have the perfect spot,” Camilla said, staring out the window to the hustling Chicagoans who strolled through the downtown streets. “Nice and tidy, too,” she continued taking a seat at the short table.
“Yeah, we’re always crowded this early. Are you new to The Regency?”
Camilla smiled. “Yes, I am.”
The hostess’ eyes popped. “In that case, let me be one of the first to welcome you to Benjamin’s Breakfast Hut. I’m Alicia, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Camilla,” Camilla said, offering her a handshake.
“That’s a pretty name,” Alicia beamed.
“Camilla, your server will be with you in just a second.”
“Thank you again,” Camilla responded. She set her briefcase down and pulled out her cell phone. Camilla could sit for thirty minutes before she made her way to work. The beauty of being on the staff at WTZB was that it was within walking distance of The Regency, which was another plus when Camilla decided to rent a space in the luxury towers. It had only cost her a small fortune to lease the mini penthouse suite, but it was well worth the security and convenience.
She strolled through her missed calls. Two of them were from her friend Corinne Thomas whom Camilla had worked with for five of her seven years at News 12 before Corinne left the studio to become a stewardess. Camilla was also supposed to call Corinne for safe check-in as well, but she’d yet to do so. The other five missed calls were from Stephen her ex-boyfriend, the last person Camilla wanted to talk to.
After being engaged to Stephen for three years, Stephen suddenly decided marriage wasn’t for him. He called it off the minute Camilla began bridal shopping. Six months later, Stephen was back, begging for a chance to show Camilla he’d changed. For three months, Camilla let him fester and beg like the dog he was, but she eventually took him back. Another two years of her life later and Stephen was doing it again, calling off the wedding. Camilla had had enough, letting Stephen know there would never be another chance for them. That was eight months ago, and now he was back again, ringing up her phone, probably wondering why there was a for sale sign in her yard.
Camilla skipped right over his number and hit send on Corinne’s. “Pony” by Ginuwine cruised through the receiver, and Camilla frowned.
“I was just getting ready to put an ABP out on you,” Corinne answered.
“Before we can move any further with this conversation, I need to know why Ginuwine is singing to me when I’m calling you. Is that seriously one of those ringback tones?”
Corinne cleared her throat. “Oh, so you didn’t have Missy Elliot singing when someone called you?”
Camilla’s lips thinned out. “Yeah, like ten years ago.”
Camilla laughed in whispered tones. “What happens when your boss calls and ‘Pony’ plays in his ear?” Camilla continued to laugh.
“I like how you just flipped this whole conversation around to me,” Corinne said. “I suppose you’re safe.” Corinne’s voice was stern, and Camilla knew she’d upset her.
“Aww, okay, I’m sorry. There’s nothing wrong with your ring back tone,” Camilla lied. She dropped her head in her hand and shook it slightly. “I’m okay. Thank you for calling to check on me.”
“I told you I would, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, you did. And I wish we could’ve come up on the weekend together.”
“Ooh, that would’ve been nice. Then I could get all up in your Chicago business.”
Camilla chuckled. “I don’t have any Chicago business. Yet, anyway—”
The timbre of his voice not only sent a shrill of heat cascading over Camilla’s body, but it also caught her by surprise and threw her off balance. Bringing her eyes up to the mystery man himself, Camilla’s heart skipped a beat as her sight took in the magnificence of his stature. Black suit pants laced around his powerful thighs and what Camilla knew was probably a taut ass. A leather Christian Dior belt buckle aligned through the loopholes of his pants, holding a pristine shine.
The maroon long sleeve button-down shirt stretched up the barrier of his grandiose wall of muscle and waved slightly over the pecs in his chest. With his collar flipped down and the first two buttons undone, his unblemished coffee brown skin was displayed. Camilla swallowed so hard she could’ve ingested her tongue. Her heart binged in her chest, and Camilla had a hard time trying to recover.
As if the palpitations weren’t bad enough, Camilla’s gaze locked with her mystery man, and immediately, she felt pulled toward him. With piercing dark brown eyes, he held her stare just as his tongue cruised across his lips to wet his mouth.
“I don’t mean to interrupt you, but, there’s nowhere else to sit while I have my breakfast, so I was hoping you’d have mercy on me and allow me to dine with you.”
“Corinne,” Camilla said, speaking into the phone, “I’m going to call you back.”
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I woke up to warm soft kisses against my cheek and thin prickly hair tickling my chin. I smiled and moaned softly as the kisses trailed down my neck, chest, then swirled around my breasts. Instantly, my eyes shot open and gradually I glanced down. The sight of Josiah’s sexy, muscular physique and tempting mouth sent a flame burning through me within seconds. I wore only a bikini top and bottoms. It was then that I noticed my surroundings.
“Oh my God,” I said.
Josiah continued to kiss down my body as I took it all in. We were laying in a hammock that hung from the entrance of what appeared to be a cave. A waterfall fell over us, and interestingly enough, we weren’t wet, nor were we cold. I moaned when his lips touched my sex, even threw the lacy material.
“Where are we?”
Josiah paused and peered up at me.
“The blue hole,” his baritone voice rumbled.
Then I remembered last night’s activities. Once I’d agreed to go with him, Josiah had taken me by the hand, and we’d driven for about an hour before coming to Ocho Rios. We stopped at a local nightclub for a few drinks and talked about our time in Jamaica, neither of us wanting to see it come to an end with the two days remaining on our trip.
“We’ll come back, just you and I,” Josiah had promised.
That started it. We left the bar and strolled to the entrance of a creek and found access to a river raft. As we sailed downstream, we kissed. It began moderate but gradually intensified into a passionate dance between our tongues that melted my bones and scorched my skin. I was not the type of woman to hold back. I still wasn’t sure if that’s a good or bad thing. I hadn’t had any complaints, so I took it in stride. However, in that moment, I second-guessed myself. It lasted all of two seconds before I found my way on top of his lap, grinding through our clothes. They disappeared, piece by piece, and the raft rocked as it traveled to somewhere I didn’t give a damn about. My only focus was on Josiah.
It was apparent that we’d ventured off to the blue hole, and the sex I wanted to believe we had was absent from my memory. I wanted to ask him as he laid a trail of kisses back up my thighs, but I was afraid if we had and I’d forgotten, it would ruin his ego.
“Didn’t get enough?” I asked, trying to pick his brain without being obvious.
He paused again and cocked his head, amused.
“Didn’t get any,” his deep voice barked. “We fell off the raft, remember?”
My mind roamed for the memory.
“You probably don’t,” he continued. “We shouldn’t have had anything to drink before our excursion.”
“When we fell overboard, I had to find you and bring you back to the surface. You weren’t breathing.” His eyes darkened. “So, I gave you mouth to mouth resuscitation. You came to, choking up water and laughing.” He pierced a look at me. “I wanted to head back, but you refused, running into the water like you’d lost your mind. That’s how we ended up here.”
I looked over at the waterfall. It hid us from anyone or anything. Watching it from behind was surreal. I then turned to the open cave. Rigid edges hung from the ceiling, and the claylike structure darkened the deeper it went.
“This is nuts,” I said.
“You’re adventurous,” he said. “I like it, albeit a bit out of control at times.”
“Free-spirited,” I defended. “Besides, I remember someone asking me if I was feeling reckless.”
“Mmm, I’ll take that.”
“Sure you will.” I smiled and bit my lip. “So what time is it?”
“I’m not sure,” he mused.
My eyes widened. “What do you mean you’re not sure? Oh my God, we have a wedding to attend. Desiree is going to kill me if I’m late!”
“That’s true,” he said more calmly than I liked.
“How the hell do we get down from here?”
That wicked smile crept along his mouth. “We get wet.”
My body heated at the same time I blubbered, “Wha-what?”
His deep laughed echoed through the open cave, then he tilted his head toward the water below.
“We jump, beloved.”
My eyes rose in surprise. Without warning, Josiah grabbed me, wrapping his arms around my waist, sealing us together.
“On the third kiss, hold your breath,” he said.
He jumped, and I couldn’t believe it. His wet mouth found my face and neck, and by the third kiss, my feet hit the water, and we were underneath the aqua blue lake. His hold remained strong as he swam with me clutching him for dear life to the surface. When we pulled up, I took in a massive breath.
“You’re crazy!” I yelled.
Josiah splashed me with water.
“Yeah, and you love it.”
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God this is the last place I needed to be. I glanced around the large Hilton Hotel suite admiring the elegance of its interior. Sitting in a luxurious leather Barcelona chair, I pulled my leg up crossing it over my thigh and settled into the comfort of the soft material. Bringing my focus back to Julian, my limb bounced as I waited for him to answer my question.
His dark gray eyes stilled as he followed the spring of my leg, and I hoped I was making him as uncomfortable as he made me. I had many talks with myself on the drive over, once I found out lunch would be in his suite, my belly tossed. Suddenly, I was as warm as an oven. But, I managed not to stare at his smooth-shaven face no matter how bad his enticing mouth beckoned me to.
Straightening a bit in my seat, I reverted to my question. “I’ll take that as a no.”
Finally, his gaze left my legs and came back to my face; but not without riding the swell of my thighs, breasts, and lips first. I made it a point not to squirm at the ripple of chills crawling up my skin.
“No, it’s not a coincidence that I’m in Houston. Mr. Walls has been on my radar for a few years now, wanting to get first dibs on a spread.”
Mr. Walls being my boss, Fredrick Walls the third. “So, what made you finally give in?”
His fingers coiled together and sat in a fist on top of the table as he leaned in. “Let’s just say, I’ve been given a little motivation to help Mr. Walls out.”
I wanted to question him further but didn’t want to push the bounds of the professional space we were working in. He offered no more explanation, so I didn’t press him about his sudden appearance in my city.
“Is there a problem, Ms. Stevens?”
“Not at all,” I adjusted myself in the seat. “It’s just the last time I saw you was at Jaden and Claudia’s engagement dinner in Chicago. It seems,” I hesitated wondering if I should move forward with my thought.
“You’re free to speak, Ms. Stevens. Tell me, what does my appearance here in Houston seem to you?”
Exhaling lightly, I reached over to my briefcase and pulled out a note pad and ink pen.
“I’m good,” I said. “How about you tell me where the idea of shooting a spread in Dubai resonated from.”
His eyes fell to my notepad then back to my face. “Are you sure that’s what you want to know, Ms. Stevens?”
“Julian…” I said. He quirked an eyebrow. “It’s okay if I call you Julian, right?”
“I would prefer it.”
“You don’t have to call me Ms. Stevens. We’ve been on a casual name basis since I saw you sitting next to my mother in her hospital room.”
A wide grin trudged across his lips. “I wasn’t sure if it would be apropos in this particular situation. However, if you’re fine with it, so am I.”
“I’m fine with it,” I quipped. I’m fine with whatever you want, I thought. When Julian pulled his lip in with his teeth, I wondered if it was for the same reason that I did – to hold back the urge to jump his bones right here and now.
“Are you seeing someone, Desiree?”
The question caught me off guard. “I, um, no. You do mean as in am I dating someone?” I couldn’t believe I was stuttering like a buffoon. To make matters worse, my unease amused him as his lips held a shadow of a smile.
“Yes, that’s what I mean.”
“I’m dating, but nothing serious at the moment.”
So I told a small fib. I didn’t want Julian to think I had no takers. The gentle smile left, and his face became expressionless. I wondered where his mind went, then decided to play it safe and get back to business. Any more of his invasive stare and we’d use this room to do what it was meant for. I know I sound like a horny teenager, but I’d never been affected by another human being the way Julian affected me.
It felt dangerous and roguish like I could marry him now and live happily ever after. Some people might call that love at first sight, but I thought it was downright looney. I wouldn’t try and explain the temerarious emotions that assaulted me. I’d just do what I do best. Ignore them. My only concern was if I could withstand a trip to Dubai with him and not give in to those carnal inhibitions. One thing was for sure; I needed a drink.
“So, about my earlier question. What gave you the idea of shooting a spread in Dubai?”
“Dubai is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister. He’s invited A Few Good Men to model a catalog for their top modeling agency and when the Prime Minister calls, you answer.”
“I see.” My cell phone rang, and we both pulled out our phones to check the screen. I silenced it then placed it back in my briefcase.
“Is that one of your dates?” Julian asked abruptly.
Again, he took me by surprise with his query. “Why do you want to know?”
“The same reason I want to know why you moved to Houston and what’s keeping you here.” I raised a questionable brow. “You intrigue me, Desiree. Do you know why that is?”
I honestly had no idea. I was just about as interesting as a singing frog. The doorbell rang, saving me momentarily. Julian rose to his feet and strolled to the door. I couldn’t help myself from undressing him with my eyes, and I wondered if he did the same to me. Julian allowed what I assumed was room service to enter with silver trays adorned with food.
“Desiree, this is Lawrence, my personal chef. He’s endured long days and nights of me shuffling him around from city to city, and I wouldn’t give him up for the world.”
“Oh sir, you’re too kind. I don’t mind being shuffled at all. Seeing the world while cooking your favorite dishes, who could have a problem with that, eh?”
I smiled and shook my head in agreement. “I’m with you there. What do you have for us, Lawrence? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Oh no, no, not at all.” Lawrence removed one of the silver tray tops and steam fled from the dish.
“Mmmm, that smells delightful.”
Lawrence smiled brightly. “It’s shrimp fettuccini and crab cake with a side of fresh Caesar salad. Would you mind if I made you a plate?”
“I would feel exiled if you didn’t. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until you mentioned it.”
Julian and Lawrence chuckled. He fixed our plates, poured glasses of wine, then saw himself out.
“I don’t know if I should be drinking in the middle of the day,” I said. I was being modest. I favored white wine, probably more than I should have.
“You’re more than welcome to have something else. Water, lemonade, sweet tea?”
“No it’s fine, I’m beginning to feel bossy.”
“It would be my pleasure to serve you, Desiree.”
A spark of heat crawled up the middle of my back and spread over my shoulders. If the hungry gaze in his eyes was an indication that Julian wanted me and not the food, I wasn’t sure how long being able to hold out would work. Then I had a thought. Why was I holding out? I hadn’t had sex in years; since that last mistake, I dated. But deep inside, I knew what it was. I didn’t want to seem easy with him. For whatever reason, I wanted to make a good impression on Julian. I was still trying to figure out why I cared.
“I’ll take sweet tea,” I said.
He made his way to the connecting kitchen giving me an extensive look at his broad back. I picked up my wine glass and took a sip anyway, but quickly put it down when the sweet alcohol raced down my throat causing more heat to stream inside me. Wrong move, I thought pushing the glass to the side. The last thing I needed was heat.
When Julian returned, he noticed the purple lip stain on the glass and smirked but did not comment.
“You know what, on second thought…” I lifted the glass and took a bigger sip then chased my lips. “Tell me, Julian, why’d you want to know if I’m dating anyone?”
He sat down getting comfortable at the table in front of me.
“Because Desiree,” he said. “I have plans for you.”
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…once upon a time…
Queen Isabella appreciated her swollen belly. In just a few days she would be gifting King Eldridge something they both had been waiting for, a child. But the queen was not the only one anticipating the child’s arrival. Sorceress Aurelia, Queen Isabella’s blood sister, waited with baited breath as well, to give the child the best gift of all… a curse. With hair as bright as the noon day sun, and as long as a flowing river, Golden was born. She was the apple of her parent’s eyes and the bane of Aurelia’s existence. Living in a beautiful castle, married to the man of her dreams, and now a mother, Queen Isabella is eternally grateful to the Rapunzel and her magical great mothers for the enchanted life she leads.
After conjuring a powerful curse, the sorceress set out to destroy king and queen’s happiness. Besides, if Eldridge couldn’t be happy with Aurelia, he didn’t deserve to be happy with anyone and Golden would pay the ultimate price.
Falling in love shouldn’t be this complicated, nevertheless…
Victoria and Joshua have moved to Chicago Illinois while Victoria pursues a career in psychology. Recently engaged, the southern bred couple are in love and set out to start anew. Just when Victoria thinks she’ll get her happily ever after, Joshua’s past catches up with them.
They’ve barely unpacked before trouble is in their midst. Victoria can withstand the pressure until secrets are revealed, lies are told, and unexpected events occur. Will the couple weather the storm together or will they crash and burn?