For six years, Holly has lived a reclusive life–with the Chesapeake Bay, the wild animals on her property, and dark memories as her only companions. Then she meets Cade. He’s smart and handsome and sensitive and sexy, and he simply will not go away. He wants to know all about her, and Holly starts to wonder if she can open up her heart again.
Cade comes back to his hometown for a break, barely holding on to the fraying edges of his true-crime writing career. He needs to write another book, and it needs to be a success. When he meets Holly, he knows there’s a great story hiding beneath her haunting beauty and her complete isolation. He’s going to be the one to tell that story.
Even if he breaks both of their hearts in the process.
As he walked back, he dried his face and chest. When he reached her, Holly was stretched out on her towel, her body displayed in a way that sent a surge of desire through him, most of it centered in his groin. Her suit was pretty much transparent now. The strings and fabric were stretched and thin. That bikini must be twenty years old.
“I’m exhausted,” she said, her eyes closed and arms stretched up above her head. Then she squinted at him in an exaggerated glare. “Why aren’t you tired too?”
He almost laughed at the irony. He must be a better actor than he thought. “I am,” he admitted, lowering himself to sit beside her on the sand. “I feel like I might just fall over.”
“Good.” She was doing that suppressed smile thing, and it made her face look absolutely enchanting—almost as attractive to him as her body.
He couldn’t keep his eyes from crawling over her long limbs and firm curves though. She was only a few inches away from him, and her breasts alone made him want to howl. He felt the erection that had tightened earlier get a little harder as he gazed at her. Soon it was going to be uncomfortable.
“Don’t get too turned on,” she said without opening her eyes. “Nothing is going to happen.”
“I know that. But there’s not any sense in trying to reason with my body. It does what it does, no matter how sternly I lecture it differently.”
She chuckled, and he was irrationally pleased that he’d managed to amuse her. She opened her eyes to meet his again. “If it’s going to be a problem for you, then you’ll need to leave. This isn’t an invitation.”
“I know it isn’t. I’m not a lumbering buffoon who thinks a body is only there for me to touch. It’s not going to be a problem for me.” He noticed that she didn’t offer to cover up. That was interesting and not a normal response for a woman—at least for the women he’d known before.
She wasn’t taking any responsibility at all for the state of his body, even though she was lying next to him mostly naked.
“Good. Then you can stay for a little while.”
“Thanks.” His voice was dry but not sarcastic.
She smiled again and relaxed on her towel, obviously enjoying the feel of the sun and the breeze.
Cade adjusted his position and tried to enjoy it too, although his mind was whirling with too many questions and responses.
“It doesn’t bother you?” he asked after a minute.
She turned her head to look up at him. “What doesn’t bother me?”
“My sitting here staring at you like this.”
“You weren’t staring just now. You were looking out at the bay, trying to get less turned on.”
She was exactly right, although how she’d realized it with her eyes closed he had no idea. “But I was staring at you earlier. It doesn’t bother you?”
“No. Why would it?”
“I don’t know. A lot of women are self-conscious about people staring at their bodies. And since you seem to be… reluctant to socialize, I would have thought it would be harder for you.”
“No. I think people are self-conscious because they want other people to think well of them, more so about the parts of them that are most intimate. I couldn’t care less about whether you like my body or not.”
She was speaking the truth. He could tell. It was so different from what he was used to that he had trouble wrapping his mind around it.
“And lying here like this doesn’t feel very intimate to me anyway. I’d far rather you see me naked than set foot into my house.”
She was telling him the truth about that too. He wondered whether something was in the house that made it so off-limits or if it was just a private sanctuary that no one but her could ever enter.
There were still far too many questions about her than answers. He might have seen her mostly naked, but he had barely scratched the surface of who she was.
He wondered why she’d allowed him to swim with her this evening, why she wasn’t sending him away now.
“You interest me,” she said at last, as if she had read his mind. “I can’t quite figure you out.”
“Same here,” he said, speaking only the truth.
“No one has really interested me in a long time.” Her words drifted off as if she was speaking to herself.
He didn’t give her the answer out loud, but the same was true of him. He wanted—needed—to know more about her. It made him feel alive, so alive that he wondered if he’d been living half-dead for the past few years.
Noelle handwrote her first romance novel in a spiral-bound notebook when she was twelve, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She has lived in eight different states and currently resides in Virginia, where she reads any book she can get her hands on and offers tribute to a very spoiled cocker spaniel. She loves travel, art, history, and ice cream. After spending far too many years of her life in graduate school, she has decided to reorient her priorities and focus on writing contemporary romances.
If you’d like to contact Noelle, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.