Tempt Me

Welcome to Sunset Bay, where the days are hot and the nights even hotter...

Katrina Caldwell loves her job managing the spa at the tropical Sunset Bay beach resort. One of the many perks is getting to work for hotter than hot Brandon Jacobs. She knows it's a mistake to let herself fall for him—he's made it clear that he's all business. But every time she's near him, he makes her feel things she thought she'd never feel again.

Brandon doesn't have time for dating. Every bit of energy he has goes into the resort he's worked hard to transform into the greatest vacation destination around, and Katrina is a temptation he just can't indulge—even if he can't get her off his mind.

The closer they get, the harder it is to avoid their undeniable chemistry. When it becomes too much to resist, Brandon makes Kat an offer—one she knows will only lead to heartache. Can she give in to her desires and still keep her heart intact?

*EXCERPT*

This is the life.

Katrina Caldwell stretched her arms above her head and tilted her head up to the hot South Florida sun as she relaxed on a beach lounger.

“I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be right now.”

“Agreed,” Meredith Jacobs—soon to be Phillips—said from the chair next to her. “How did we get so lucky?”

Kat smiled, adjusting the colorful bohemian print scarf she had tied around her head. “I don’t know, but I’m not going to question it. How many people do you know that get to live and work in paradise?”

She looked through her—literally—rose colored glasses at the stunning view. The white sandy beaches stretched out to either side of the resort, foliage, palms and exotic plants obscuring anything except this little piece of heaven from sight. It was like a tropical oasis. Everything from the outside world seemed to disappear, leaving only the resort and the turquoise water stretching all the way to the horizon.

Meredith sat up and looked around with exaggerated scrutiny. “I’d say at least five that I can see right now. But I know there’s more.”

They, along with several of the other senior employees at Sunset Bay Beach Resort, were afforded the perk of living in villas on the property. It was a pretty sweet setup.

“And here comes another one right now.” Kat pulled her glasses down and waggled her eyebrows, whistling a sharp catcall. “Hey, sexy, over here!”

Turning to look, Meredith laughed and swatted at her. “Hey now, that one’s all mine. Get your own.”

“No, girl, I’m good. Why settle for one when there’s a whole beach of eye candy at my disposal?”

Meredith smirked. “That’s what you say now. Just wait. One day some guy will sweep you off your feet and you’ll fall head over heels in love.”

Not if I have anything to say about it. Kat watched as Cole Phillips approached them and pulled his fiancée up from the chair, clutching her tightly to him and thoroughly kissing her until it looked like things were about to get indecent.

“Hello, I’m right here.” Kat waved her arms dramatically and rolled her eyes.

Meredith broke the kiss, but Cole kept his arms firmly around her, keeping her close to his side. “Sorry, Kat. I just can’t seem to—”

“Help yourself. Yeah, yeah. So I’ve heard.” She grinned to let them know she was just giving them a hard time. “Not that I’d be able to keep my hands to myself either if I were you two.”

“It is quite the Herculean task,” Cole said, bending to kiss Meredith’s neck.

“I’m sure.” She was equally sure that the twinge she felt in her chest had nothing to do with the way Cole looked at Meredith like she was the only woman in the world who could ever make him happy. It was almost certainly heartburn—definitely not the green-eyed monster rearing its head. She was single and liked it that way.

“My last lesson canceled, so looks like we have the rest of the afternoon to do what we want.” Cole settled down into the beach lounger, pulling Meredith down into his lap.

“I love Sundays so much.” Kat grabbed a bag of almonds from her beach bag and popped one into her mouth. Sunday was the only day of the week that both she and Meredith didn’t have any resort obligations. Meredith worked for her brother Brandon—the owner of the resort—as his financial adviser, and Cole was the beach activities coordinator. Kat was recently promoted from fitness director to spa manager, so when she wasn’t teaching a yoga class she was usually busy in the spa. Sunday was her day to chill, and she usually didn’t make it further than the beach.

Having grown up at resorts, she was a certified beach bum, with the dark tan and freckles to prove it. Her mother had always tried to keep her out of the sun, saying that redheads would only burn and get more freckles, but Kat didn’t care. She was the rare redhead that could get a tan—though really her hair was more auburn.

At the thought of her mother, she frowned, drawing her eyebrows together.

“What’s wrong?” Meredith asked. They became fast friends when Meredith first came down to the resort last year, and she was always in tune with Kat’s emotions.

Kat sighed, popping another almond into her mouth. How was she supposed to tell her best friend that she dreaded hearing from her mother? And that the news she received earlier in the week that her family was coming down to visit was enough to send her into a conniption? Meredith and Brandon had lost their parents when they were younger. It was too insensitive to complain about seeing hers.

Even if it was the last thing she wanted to do.

“Nothing much. Just thinking about my parents’ visit.” She sat up and adjusted the straps of her colorful mandala-print bikini top.

“They’re coming for sure then?”

Kat nodded. “Saturday.”

Meredith opened her mouth to say something, but her puzzled expression quickly broke into a huge grin as she looked past Kat and waved.

“Brandon!”

“Hey, guys. How’s it going?”

Kat’s palms were suddenly sweaty and she felt her breath come faster at the sound of Brandon’s voice. Wanting to slap herself for the absurd reaction, she plastered on a smile and leaned back casually in her chair and wiggled her fingers in greeting.

Meredith jumped up and hugged her brother. “What are you doing out here? Surely not taking time away from the office.” Her eyes widened dramatically and she placed a hand to her chest as if she were appalled.

“Ha ha,” he said dryly, then turned to Kat as she popped yet another almond in her mouth. “Speaking of time away, are you seriously spending your day off on the property?”

He flashed her a perfect pearly-white grin and dropped down onto her chair by her feet, his hand grazing her calf as he placed it on the lounger. She sucked in a breath, and to her utter mortification, promptly choked on the almond.

She jolted upright, coughing and sputtering, and Brandon hastily leaned in, smacking his hand on her back. No sweaty palms for him, was all she could think.

She threw her hands out in front of her and waved him away. “I’m fine,” she managed to say, still coughing. But she wouldn’t be if he kept touching her, even if he was just trying to help. Next thing she knew he’d be behind her performing the Heimlich.

Though the idea of Brandon pressed against her back with his arms around her was an appealing image, her choking on a damn almond was not why she wanted him there. She let herself imagine it for just a minute, then quickly got that train of thought back on track before it totally derailed.

“Are you sure?” Concern was written all over his face. His gorgeous, chiseled-like-a-Greek-statue face that was still way too close to hers for her to breathe comfortably.

She felt herself get warm and flushed all over and prayed they all just thought she was embarrassed.

“I’m fine.” She smiled dismissively. This time her voice sounded a bit more normal, and thank the sea gods, it seemed that the almond had dislodged itself from her throat.

He studied her closely for a minute, as if he wasn’t sure he believed her, then devilish amusement washed over his features. “Gotta watch those nuts. Quite the choking hazard.”

Her mouth dropped open. No, he did not just say that! But Cole’s laughter and Meredith’s groan confirmed it.

“Brandon Jacobs,” Meredith said, rolling her eyes. “Stop that.”

Kat was grateful when Meredith kept talking to her brother, asking if he was done for the day and could spend some time with her. Anything to get the attention off her and her body’s outrageous reaction to Brandon.

This was absurd. It wasn’t as if she didn’t see him every single day. She’d been working for him for almost a year. It was only lately that she couldn’t seem to function quite like she used to when he was around.

From the way they were all chatting, it looked like they were completely unaware of the recent change. Thank God.

“I don’t have time to stay,” Brandon was saying. I just wanted to check in with you guys and see if you wanted to join me for dinner later.”

Kat busied herself with adjusting her swimsuit again and retying her head scarf. Not only was it cute, it was functional—it kept the shorter pieces of her hair out of her face. When she looked up she noticed Brandon was watching her expectantly.

“I’m sorry, did I miss something?”

“I asked if you wanted to join the three of us for dinner?”

“Oh, um…” She bit her lip. She really didn’t have the extra money to go out to eat. “I don’t know. I should probably get some rest for my classes tomorrow.”

“Don’t be silly,” Meredith interjected. “You need to get out of here once in a while.” She turned to Brandon and firmly stated, “She’s going.”

“Great.” Brandon smiled and stood up from the chair, tilting his head toward the water. “Cole, wanna catch a few waves? I have a few minutes before my conference call.”

Kat wrinkled her nose. “You have a conference call on a Sunday?”

“It will be Monday in Japan. I’m working on closing the deal with a company that wants to host a conference here, and part of the business is headquartered in Tokyo. Duty calls. But right now, the ocean is calling a bit louder.” He shrugged, then pulled off his t-shirt, leaving Kat unable to focus her eyes anywhere but on the ripped abs that were right at eye level.

It ought to be a crime to be that chiseled. Those ridges were just begging to be traced, and her fingers were itching to do it.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard those words fall from your lips,” Meredith teased.

He clubbed her on the chin playfully. “It may be a first.”

Then he and Cole were headed to the shoreline. Good thing, because her mouth was as dry as if she’d choked on sand instead of a freaking almond.

She sat back in her chair, glad her glasses hid her eyes. She couldn’t have Meredith thinking she was crushing on her brother. Which she wasn’t. Not at all. Her body just happened to take more notice of his here in the last few weeks.

In fact—she spotted one of the water sports instructors making his way up the beach with his surfboard—she was probably just suffering from a dry spell. Being near a sexy guy was sure to do that. Yep. That was absolutely why. But just to prove it to herself, she lifted her hands to her mouth.

“Hey, Taylor. Over here.”

He turned and waved at Meredith and her, then altered his path to come up the beach toward them.

She wiggled her eyebrows and smirked at Meredith. “Like I said earlier—eye candy.”

“For sure,” she agreed. Taylor was the epitome of a beach bum himself. Bleached out blond hair and built like the surf god he was, he was also the most popular instructor with the women that came to Sunset Bay.

“Hey, ladies.” Taylor grinned disarmingly, not hiding the fact that his eyes skimmed over Kat’s body appreciatively.

“Looking good out there today.” She smiled flirtatiously and adjusted her position in her chair to one that showcased her assets a bit more. She actually hadn’t paid him much attention today, but maybe Taylor was just what she needed to break her dry spell. Then she could act normally around the male species again—her boss in particular.

He stuck his board in the sand and came up beside her, leaning an arm on the back of her chair and purposely getting in her personal space.

“It’s your day off, right? You have any plans?” The way he was looking at her made it clear that if she was looking for a casual hook-up, he’d be more than happy to oblige.

She debated. Meredith really wanted her to come to dinner with them. But if she went out with Taylor, it might get her mind off the uncomfortable realization that he wasn’t having anywhere near the effect on her body that Brandon had just minutes before. Why not?

Just as she was about to say yes, Brandon appeared out of nowhere.

“Taylor.” His voice was cold. “You still on the clock, man?”

Taylor smiled easily and shrugged. “I was on my way to clock out when I was distracted by these lovely ladies.”

Kat could have sworn she felt the air thicken as the tension ratcheted up. Brandon looked between Taylor and her, taking in the way he leaned in closely on her chair, his fingers almost brushing her shoulder.

“Taylor was just seeing if I wanted to hang out later, right?” She smiled brightly at Taylor, then at Brandon, hoping to lighten whatever heaviness had settled over them.

“She’s going to dinner with me,” Brandon said, his voice like steel. “And no fraternizing on the clock.” He jerked his thumb toward the activities hut. “Clock out. And consider this a warning—next time I’ll write you up.”

And just as abruptly as he appeared, he grabbed his shirt up from where it still sat on the bottom of Kat’s chair, tugged it over his head, and turned to stalk off, calling over his shoulder, “I’ll be done by seven o’clock.”

Taylor turned to watch him go, then looked back at Meredith and her. “What the hell was that about?”

Brandon ran a tight ship but he was never harsh with his employees.

Kat glanced at Meredith as she said, “You know Brandon. All business, all the time. I’m honestly surprised he even took a minute to get in the water. He’s going to work himself to death if he doesn’t ease up. Don’t take it personally, Tay.”

Taylor shrugged and said goodbye and went off toward the activities hut, but Kat had already forgotten him. She was looking in the direction Brandon had gone. She could just make out his broad shoulders disappearing along the path that led to the offices.

She felt a jolt of nerves race down her spine, stopping in the pit of her stomach where they jumped around like a live wire. The way Brandon said she was going to dinner with him, almost possessively, had her keyed up with anticipation.

For the life of her, she couldn’t convince herself that was a bad thing.  

 

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