Men of Discovery Island #2
By: Anne Marsh
Releasing October 1st, 2014
Winner takes it all…off
Former diving champion Piper Clark never loses. Unfortunately, if she doesn’t land this lucrative contract, her diving business will fail. Worse still, it will be at the hands of her childhood nemesis, Cal Brennan—six feet of hard, rugged former Navy SEAL. So Piper proposes a wager: whoever loses the diving contract must take orders from the winner…in bed.
Cal needs this contract for his own reasons. A former rescue swimmer, he may be having a few issues with diving since his last mission ended, but Piper doesn’t need to know that. Something about her impulsive nature makes Cal rise to the bait, and there’s nothing he’d like more than to show Piper exactly what rules are good for.
All bets are on. And someone’s about to start playing dirty….
Piper Clark cut hard right, the prow of her motorboat slicing through the clear blue water, yards in front of his. He’d have recognized that impish, take-no-prisoners grin anywhere.
Plus, she flipped him the bird as her wake hit his deck, soaking both him and his gear.
Good thing for her he’d grown up in the past twenty years. Cal Brennan’s ten-year-old self would have gunned his motor and gotten even, racing her for Discovery Island’s marina until he’d swamped her deck every bit as much as she’d swamped his. Tit for tat—those were the rules of engagement they’d always competed by. Still, he picked up speed, hugging her wake—and was just in time to watch as she maneuvered her boat into the last decent slip. Mentally, he readjusted his assessment of his maturity. Score one for Piper. He forced his fingers to unclench from the wheel, counted to ten and concentrated on searching out an empty slip. She waved jauntily as he motored past her, close enough to read the name painted on the boat’s side. What kind of name was The Feelin’ Free anyhow?
She’d always named things badly. He distinctly recalled being hit over the head with a stuffed teddy bear named Grand Poo-bah. There had also been a rescue puppy named Mr. Cuddles. Mr. Cuddles had been a mostly deaf white Boxer with a severe drool problem. Mr. Cuddles had moved on to the Happy Hunting grounds some years before, but apparently Piper’s lack of naming skills had stuck.
Not that the other four thousand full-time residents on Discovery Island would mind. Twenty-two miles long and eight miles wide, the island’s main selling point was its horseshoe-shaped bay with postcard-perfect deep blue water, dotted by boats and two piers. The pier for the cruise ships stretched out into deeper water, but the shorter pier was pure pleasure and clear at the other end of town. The good folks of Discovery Island had named that pier Pleasure Pier and the broad strip of creamy, palm-tree studded sand fronting an old-fashioned boardwalk was Primrose Path. The hotels, shops and restaurants lining the street sported even worse names in Cal’s opinion. Good Time, Please Your Eye, Wine, Women and Song. The daily influx of tourists who ferried over from the California coastline to explore the boardwalk loved the names. Or they simply loved diving, fishing, zip lining or doing any one of the hundreds of activities on offer. Discovery Island was big on keeping busy.
Grabbing his sodden gear bag and his deck shoes, he padded barefoot along the dock, enjoying the heat from the sun-warmed boards soaking into his feet. He and Piper had business, more so than usual. The familiar, soothing noises of the marina washed over him as he fielded greetings from the occasional other boaters and closed in on his target. Discovery Island’s marina was a hopping place, but the blue water with its glint of fish and kelp were an invitation to take it easy, as was the familiar bouquet of sea salt, motor oil and Neoprene rubber filling the air. Lazy waves broke against the docks, slapping fiberglass hulls, and he could just make out the beach boardwalk. On a summer day like today, the place bustled with tourists looking for the quintessential California dream. It was also an ideal day for diving, but he’d stuck to the surface. He hadn’t strapped on a tank or even free dived. Not him. He’d had a nice swim, stuck his head under water and promptly panicked.
Just like yesterday.
And every other day since his last dive as a U.S. Navy rescue swimmer. The dive boats he passed, loading and unloading, were an unwelcome reminder of what he’d lost. Temporarily. Somehow, he’d get his head on straight, would figure out how to get back in the game and back in the water. He’d never failed before; he wouldn’t start now. He had too much riding on his ability to dive.
Turning the corner and spotting Piper’s boat was almost a relief. The sighting was definitely a welcome distraction from the panicked voice in his head asking, What if you don’t get back in the game? What if you never dive again? Hearing voices was never a good sign.
“Piper Clark,” he bit out, relieved to have something to do. Setting his gear bag down on the dock, he moved to the edge where she’d tied up.
Retreat the inner voice demanded. Stand your ground, sailor, his body urged.
Piper was naked.
Okay, so, she wasn’t totally naked, but a man could dream.
Somehow, he’d timed his arrival at her slip for the precise moment she grabbed the zipper running up the back of her wet suit. Undeterred by his presence—because surely she’d heard him snap her name—she pulled, the Neoprene suit parting slow and steady beneath her touch.
Each new inch of sun-kissed skin she revealed made certain parts of him spring to life.
If someone had asked him what the over-under was on his seeing Piper naked, he’d have bet heavily against his spotting so much as a sliver of her bare flesh. If he’d expressed an interest, Piper would have shot him down, hard and fast. After all, she didn’t like him any more than he liked her. Their shared past was proof of that.
Even as he reminded himself she’d spent most of their early days trying to either torment or kill him, his eyes were busy. Piper’s arms were spectacular, strong and toned from hour after hour of pulling herself through the water and then back up into the boat. Diving wasn’t for the weak, and she’d had a professional platform-diving career long before the accidental collision five years ago between his boat and her Jet Ski had destroyed her right knee. After she’d rehabbed on the mainland, she’d up and moved full-time to Discovery Island. Island gossip hadn’t shared with him the reasons behind the move, but since he’d come back himself, he had to assume she simply loved the place as much as he did. Now she was looking sexier than any stripper, uncovering skin tanned a rich golden brown from time outdoors. The way she’d braided her water-slicked hair in a severe plait only drew his attention to the deceptively vulnerable curve of her neck.
But this was Piper.
So dragging his tongue over her skin and tasting all the places where she was still damp from her dive should have been the last thing on his mind. He’d read her the riot act about her careless driving and say his piece about tomorrow’s business meeting. Then he’d go his way and she’d go hers. After all, he’d been back on the island for almost six months and had managed to avoid all but the briefest of interactions with her. They said hello, goodbye (he suspected she preferred the latter) and nodded tersely at each other from across the street. Life was much quieter that way, because Piper invariably did plenty of yelling when she spent too much time around him.
The wet suit hit her waist.
Neither short nor tall, Piper had medium brown hair, brown eyes and a slim build. Those cut-and-dried facts didn’t begin to do the woman in front of him justice, however. They certainly didn’t begin to explain why he unexpectedly found her so appealing or why he wanted to wrap an arm around her and take her down to the deck for a kiss. Or seven. He didn’t like Piper. He never had. She’d also made it plenty clear he irritated her on a regular basis.
So why was he staring at her like a drowning man?
And…score another point for Piper. Like many divers, she hadn’t bothered with a bikini top beneath the three-millimeter wet suit. His kiss quota rocketed up to double digits.
“Piper.” His voice sounded hoarse to his own ears. Focus. Adrenaline rushed through him, sweat dampening his skin. He forced himself to breathe in, slow and easy. To push his heartbeat down and make the sudden energy pumping through his veins work for him. This wasn’t a rapid rappel down to a crash site to search for survivors or a midnight recon of a hostile-infested beach. Nope. This was Discovery Island, a good place with good people. He was home.
Without acknowledging his greeting, she bent over, shoving the heavy suit down her legs and his throat went dry. Game over. Silver earbuds, which explained why she hadn’t answered him, flashed as she shimmied, working the suit off. Like always, Piper was off in her own world, marching to her own beat. Ignorant of his presence, she gave him ample opportunity to admire the longest, sleekest legs he’d ever seen. Her blue-and-white striped bikini bottom was all practicality, although the conservative cut still clung to her butt. Her water-darkened braid slid over her shoulder, and he wanted to fist her hair, holding her in place as he ran his hands up those legs and parted her for his kiss. Which made him a first-class bastard, even if he kept those thoughts to himself.
Yeah. But she clearly had more than one advantage on her own side.
He didn’t negotiate, he reminded himself. He acted. Decided, he approached the boat, knocking on the side to draw her attention.
She jumped, her head swinging around toward him. “If it isn’t my favorite SEAL.” She flashed him a grin as she popped the earbuds out, taking in his soaking-wet jeans and damp T-shirt. “Had a mishap?”
She knew precisely what had happened.
He dropped down off the dock, onto her boat. Deliberately, he let his feet hit the deck hard, savoring her little flinch. She wasn’t as off balance as she’d made him, but it was something. He’d take every advantage he could get because, Christ, she still wasn’t wearing a bikini top. Instead of covering her breasts or grabbing for a towel, she glared at him as if this whole situation was his fault. She was lucky her slip put her out of the line of sight of the other boaters in the marina and he was the only one who could see her. Piper flashed him, and any thoughts he’d had of being a gentleman flew out of his head. He imagined cupping her soft curves in his palms, rubbing his thumbs over the tips. He’d just bet she was a moaner, and—
He jerked his gaze back up to her face. “We’ve got to talk.”
I live in Northern California with my husband, two kids and six cats. After ten years of graduate school and too many degrees, I escaped to become a technical writer. When not planted firmly in front of the laptop translating Engineer into English, I enjoy gardening, running (even if it’s just to the 7-11 for slurpees), and reading books curled up with my kids. The best part of writing romance, however, is finally being able to answer the question: “So… what do you do with a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures?” You can visit me online at www.anne-marsh.com.
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