Sara Howard looked at him across the cluttered store. His bangs shielded his eyes from her inquisitive gaze, but his full lips intrigued her. She watched him lick those lips and couldn’t help but lick her own. Her gaze followed his tongue as if it moved in slow motion. A hand brushed the dark bangs aside, and she discovered a stunning set of green eyes staring back at her. She looked away, swallowing a lump in her throat before returning her attention to the gorgeous man.
He was gone, and her heart lurched. She opened her mouth to call out but closed it instead.
Why had she looked away? She turned back to her basket, checking her grocery list. With her thoughts scattered, she dropped an apple and watched it roll across the floor toward a sneaker-clad foot. Her gaze went up long legs, narrow hips, and then a strong chest.
He bent down to pick up the apple and stepped closer. She held out her basket to him and tried to smile.
His full lips parted. “You might want to get another one that isn’t bruised.”
It took her a moment to realize he spoke of the apple. His voice sent shivers down her spine, and she nodded. “Would you pick it out for me?” Her voice was barely above a whisper.
A corner of his mouth moved up to a smile. “Sure. By the way, my name is Leo.”
She stared at the hand he held out before sliding her fingers up his palm. His name was her zodiac.
Flecks of brown made his eyes almost electric close up, and she forced herself to release his hand before he might fear she wouldn’t let go.
“Do you come here often?” he asked, his voice radiating through her.
She almost choked, and a nervous giggle erupted as she nodded. They were in a supermarket, not a nightclub.
He smiled. “You blush so prettily, but I was only teasing.”
A hand moved up to touch her cheek, and she held her breath. She knew she should move his hand away, but she didn’t want to. She’d never experienced such a connection with a strange man before. His long brown bangs fell in front of his eyes again, and she smiled, wanting to reach up and brush them aside. Instead, she looked at his basket, which contained a six-pack of her favorite brand of beer.
“Going to a party?”
His smile deepened, and he nodded. “Want to come?”
She looked down at her basket to hide her surprise. Had a gorgeous stranger just asked her out? She swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’m not dressed for a party.”
His gaze traveled her body before he shook his head. “You look hot.”
Her cheeks heated with even more of a blush. “So do you.” She said it fast and shrugged, though she didn’t feel hot. She went for a run that afternoon and still wore her sweaty shorts and tank top.
He rewarded her with a smile. “You ready to check out?”
She nodded and led the way, self consciously smoothing her hair back, making sure all of it was still secure in the ponytail.
After buying their purchases, they left the market together. He stopped at the curb, and she looked in shock at the motorcycle.
He nodded. “So, how about that party?”
“You were serious about that?” A nervous giggle slipped out.
He nodded again. “Of course.”
Her gaze went from him to the cycle and back again. “But I don’t know you.” A voice inside her head screamed that she shouldn’t ride off with this mysterious man, and she realized it was her mother.
He reached out a hand to touch her arm, his fingers caressing down to her hand. “You’re safe with me.”
Her brows creased at the touch, which spread through her body, and warmth blossomed between her thighs. She suddenly did not want to be away from him and inwardly told her mom to butt out.
Glancing again at his motorcycle, she bit her lip. She’d never been on one before and feared it more than just a little. “Maybe we should take my car?” He laughed and pulled her closer. “Live a little. It’s fun.”
She frowned and looked at the bike, slowly shaking her head. Pointing her thumb over her shoulder, she tried to take a step back. “I should follow you. My car is parked right over there.”
He looked toward the parking lot before shifting his intense gaze to her, strongly but gently preventing her retreat. She stared into his eyes and had a brief flash of déjà vu. Something about him seemed familiar, even though she didn’t know him. His warm smile began to melt her resolve.
“You could never keep up,” he replied with a wink.
She opened her mouth to object, but he took her hand in his, and she forgot her fear. Looking down at their joined hands, she gave him a subtle nod.
He stowed their purchases in the saddlebags before mounting the cycle, holding out his hand to her. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she swung her leg over the cycle and wrapped her arms around his waist. When she felt firm muscles hidden beneath his shirt, she sucked in a breath.
“Shouldn’t you wear a helmet?”
He shook his head. “Don’t much like to follow the rules.” He laughed and gunned the cycle.
She tightened her arms around him to keep from falling off, and her scream was a mix of excitement and sheer terror as he raced for the highway. Her face buried in his back, she feared opening her eyes. He shook with laughter, and she almost pinched him but instead tightened her hold. She didn’t raise her head until they stopped moving. Taking a breath, she looked around and stared at the ocean. “Where’s the party?”
“Down by the shore.” He slid off and held a hand out to her. She took it slowly, scanning the beach for signs of life. The crashing of waves was the only sound, and she bit her lip. He retrieved the six-pack of beer from the saddlebag and then led the way.
“Where is everyone?” Doubt grew within her as she wondered if she’d made a mistake going with him.
He smiled at her. “Trust me.”
With a frown, she followed. He removed his shoes, and so did she. The sand filtered through her toes, the sun warm on her face. “Leo, I don’t see anyone.” She cursed the fear in her voice.
He caressed her arm. “The party is down the beach. Trust me.”
“You said that already,” she replied with a tremulous smile. He nodded and gestured toward the shore, holding out his hand. Feeling a bit reckless, she consented. Although, as they walked together, leaving wet footprints behind, she realized he’d never asked her name. She looked down at the wet sand. “So, do you make a habit of picking up strange girls?”
His eyebrows shot up. “Are you saying you’re strange?”
Not expecting the question, a bark of laughter escaped her lips, relaxing her. “I think you’re the strange one.”
“Why do you say that?”
She shrugged. “You don’t even know my name.”
He looked at his feet and chuckled. “Yes, I do…Sara.”
Her brows shot up in surprise. “How do you know that?” she sputtered, and her toes sunk into the sand like roots.
He laughed, walking along the shore. “You’ll find out.”
He turned about twenty feet ahead and waited for her. Puzzled, she followed silently and kept an eye out for the so-called party.
A few minutes later, they came upon a pier, and he ducked behind a column. She stepped into the surf to avoid him jumping out at her. Someone else jumped out in front of her though, and she screamed and fell back into the water. Laughter and applause erupted around her as her best friend held out a hand.
“Damn it, Tina!” She threw a handful of sand as she jumped to her feet.
Her friend laughed and embraced her. “Sorry, hun, couldn’t resist.”
As she looked around at all her friends emerging from behind the pier, she scanned their faces for Leo.
“Couldn’t have done it without my accomplice,” Tina snickered, pointing over her shoulder.
Relief flooded her as she locked gazes with him. “How did you know I’d come?”
He winked at her. “Tina said you couldn’t resist me.”
She gasped and swung on her friend. “You didn’t!”
Tina laughed. “What can I say, I know your type, girl!” She slung her arm around Sara’s shoulders and squeezed. “Now, let’s go eat some cake and get drunk.”
“My type?” She gaped, her cheeks hot as flames. “What’s my type, exactly?” She avoided looking at Leo as Tina steered her through the pier’s columns.
“Oh, you know…hot!”
Before she could question Tina further, her friend ran off toward a group of guys. She looked to her left to see a long table covered with food. Balloons were tied at all four corners, and she shook her head in awe.
“You mad at me?” Leo asked, handing her a beer from his six-pack.
Not turning around, she shrugged and took a big swig of the beer. “Not really.”
He nudged her face toward him. “Liar. Couldn’t help it though. Tina swore me to silence. I hope you’re happy with the surprise?”
She finally smiled at him and nodded. “Yes, though I thought you didn’t like to follow the rules.”
He looked puzzled for a moment. “Only with my friends.” His expression softened as he moved closer. “Happy birthday, Sara.”
His breath caressed her face as his soft, warm lips gently touched hers. She lost herself in that warmth, her body molding itself to his. The whistling from behind reminded her they were not alone. Her eyes shot open as she stepped back, stumbling in her haste. His hand shot out to steady her, and she smiled her thanks.
“Enough with the cat calls.” She laughed and looked at her friends. “Can I get another beer?”
She downed the rest of the one in her hand, and Leo took the empty can. Her friends rushed over and pulled her along with them. She resisted looking over her shoulder at him. Someone handed her another beer, and she took a sip as they led her to a volleyball net. “We’ve been waiting for you, so let’s get started.”
She smiled to see Leo on the other team.
* * * * *
A few hours later, Sara and Tina stood beside the table and watched the men play. “Leo’s hot, huh?”
She choked on her beer but tried to shrug and act disinterested.
Tina laughed. “I know you like him. Don’t deny it.”
She blushed and looked toward the game. Leo saw her and waved. “How do you know him?” she asked Tina, waving back.
“He’s my instructor.”
That got her attention, and she gave her friend a questioning look.
Tina laughed at her raised eyebrows. “He’s teaching me to drive a motorcycle.”
She cringed and watched him serve the ball. He’d taken off his shirt, and the muscles in his chest and abdomen stretched as he spiked the ball. Her gaze lingered on his sexy tan skin, unable to look away. “I didn’t know you wanted to learn.” She imagined her friend seated between his spread thighs on a cycle, and the surge of jealousy surprised her.
“Yeah, for a while now. You should learn, too.”
Even as she shook her head, she debated the thought. It would give her a reason to see him again. It hadn’t been too bad riding his earlier.
“Does he ride with you?”
Tina shook her head. “I practice on my own bike.” A smile crept across her friend’s face. “You can ask him to ride with you. I’m sure he won’t mind.” She playfully bumped Sara’s hip for emphasis.
She blushed hotter as she noticed him watching them. “Maybe I should rejoin the game.” Not giving Tina a chance to respond, she ran over to the net.
He smiled as she neared. “How’s the birthday girl?”
She mustered up her courage before responding. “I just realized my groceries are probably getting too hot in your cycle. Can you take me home so I can put them in the fridge?”
His brows rose slightly. “Now? Sure.” He walked over to retrieve his shirt, pulling it on as they walked along the shore.
“We’ll be right back,” she called to Tina, who winked at her with a knowing grin.
“Take your time. We’ll be here all night.”
When they got to the cycle, she tried to work up the nerve to ask the impossible.
“You want to check on your stuff before we leave?” His question threw her at first, and she stared blankly at him.
“Your food?” he clarified.
“Oh, sure.” She held her breath as he leaned over the bike, her gaze moving over his ass, the denim stretching across its tautness.
He looked over his shoulder and caught her stare. His lips softened in a smile as his gaze traveled her shapely curves. She took her bag from him and busied herself with checking inside, though she didn’t really look. Her mind stayed on the sexy man in front of her.
“Can I ride in front?” She braced herself for his response, which didn’t come. She slowly looked up to meet his unreadable expression.
“That’s not really safe,” he finally said.
She shrugged. “Guess I’m feeling a bit reckless.” She hoped he couldn’t see her trembling with fear.
He sighed. “Where do you live?” He looked thoughtful after she told him. “Sure, why not? Hop on.”
Not expecting him to agree, her courage waned. “I, uh…” She stammered, unable to speak.
A corner of his mouth moved up as he held out a hand. “Come on, don’t be scared.”
She shook her head. “I’m not scared.”
To prove her point, she walked over to the cycle and mounted it. In an instant he nestled behind her, and she smiled. His arms slid across her ribcage to grip the handles. She shivered in the forced embrace, closing her eyes with a deep sigh. Lifting himself to start the cycle, his crotch slid down her back as he reseated. Happy he couldn’t see her face, she licked her lips.
As the cycle jerked forward, she dug her fingers into his thighs and closed her eyes, then laughed and screamed at the same time.
She feared opening her eyes and kept her back pressed to his warm chest. Though the air was cool, his enveloping heat kept the chill away. She’d just begun to relax when the bike stopped, and she opened her eyes to see her apartment. Unable to move at first, she kept her hands on his thighs. His hands covered hers and squeezed. She looked down and smiled. His chin rested on her shoulder, and their cheeks touched. Wanting to stay like that forever, she let her eyes flutter shut.
“Don’t forget about your food.” His voice broke the spell, and she forced a nod.
“Right,” she muttered and crawled off the bike.
He held her elbow to keep her from stumbling. “Should I wait here?”
She froze. Did she want him in her apartment? Hadn’t that been the reason for them leaving her party? “I might be a while. You can come in if you want.”
His nonchalant shrug looked strangely sensual to her, and she fought licking her lips. She gestured toward her home and then led the way, carrying her bag of food. Nothing really needed to be kept cool, but she wanted to be alone with him. As she unlocked the door, his breath caressed the back of her neck, but he didn’t touch her. Would he?
She opened the front door and stepped into the living room. The cool air inside made a sharp contrast to the moist heat from outside, and chill bumps rose on her arms. She resisted the urge to rub them as she held out an arm toward the couch. Leo looked around the small room, which was barely large enough for the couch and TV stand. His gaze lingered on the wide screen television, and she shrugged.
“It’s too big for the room, I know, but I couldn’t resist it. Don’t need to go to the movie theaters now.”
She gave him a sheepish smile, and he nodded but didn’t move from the door after he closed it behind him. The kitchen was directly off the living room but visible from the front door. She sensed him watching her as she carried her grocery bag to the fridge. Not caring to put anything away right then, she merely put the full bag inside and then leaned against the door once she’d closed it. Her gaze met his across the room. His face was mostly in shadow, but she could still see his eyes.
“I need to get cleaned up. Didn’t expect you to take me to my own party.” A nervous giggle slipped out, and she cringed.
“No problem,” he said with a grin, his expression unreadable.
She nodded, sidestepping the kitchen and then backing out of the living room. “Make yourself comfortable,” she suggested, pointing at the couch. Closing the door to her bedroom but leaving it unlocked, she placed her forehead to the cool wood and took a shuddering breath. She had been stalked in the other room and wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Something told her that she wouldn’t mind being that man’s prey. Smiling at such a thought, she pushed away from the door and began to strip off her clothes.
She knew it was wicked getting naked with a man in the other room, especially a man she barely knew. She caught her reflection in the closet mirror and smiled at the flush in her cheeks. Her gaze traveled down her nakedness, wondering if he would appreciate her flawless, dark skin. She shook her head at her own foolishness and headed for the bathroom. After turning on the shower and testing the water, she stepped under the hot spray.
At first, she did nothing but stand under the water, enjoying the feel of it against her skin. Once the heat began to relax her tight muscles, she washed her hair and soaped up her body. As her fingers roamed along her curves, she fantasized that Leo’s hands followed hers from her breasts, down her stomach and between her legs. His soapy fingers delved through the black curls to slip inside her body. She threw her head back with a moan.
The shower door slid open, and she held her breath.