Escape to Paradise
It’s the Ultimate Passionate Getaway…
Desperate to flee the breaking scandal swirling around her ex, event coordinator Claudia Jefferies flies to exotic Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. As if being pampered at its exclusive spa weren’t enough, now the drop-dead gorgeous resort manager is showering her with attention! But Claudia’s too smart to get seriously involved… especially with a heartbreaker like Santiago Medina. If only her heart would listen to her head.
From the moment Santiago spots Claudia on the plane, he knows it’s more than lust at first sight. And this man is used to getting what he wants. He’ll wine and dine the stunning, soft-spoken Southerner with tropical nights of passion she’ll never forget. But once Claudia finds out who Santiago really is, can he turn a fleeting island idyll into a passionate escape to love?
“How are you today?”
Claudia Jeffries blinked, and turned towards the man with the rich voice. His tone was soft, as smooth as honey. And although he exuded inner peace, she narrowed her eyes and hit him with a leave-me-the-hell alone look. He didn’t budge. Instead of scampering off with his tail between his legs, he extended his hand, offering a white cup overflowing with whipped cream.
“You look like you could use a warm drink. How about a cup of hot chocolate?”
“Please, take it. I insist.”
Stepping forward, he bowed slightly and rested the drink on the table to her right. His scent drifted over her, hitting her square between the nose. Her stomach heaved, pitched from left to right, coiled in a knot so tight she couldn’t swallow. Claudia stewed in her first-class lounge seat. He was wearing Circa 1840 and that was reason enough to keep her distance.
“I’m Santiago Medina.”
“Good for you.”
The light in his eyes dimmed. “I brought lunch,” he explained, holding up the clear bag in his left hand. “I hope soup, sandwiches and chocolate brownies are okay.”
“Do I know you?”
“Then why are you over here bothering me?”
“Because I’ve been sitting in this lounge for four hours and if I keep playing solitaire on my iPhone I’ll go crazy,” he confessed, sporting a grin that revealed straight, even teeth. “To pass the time I thought we could talk.”
Claudia rolled her eyes. What was the matter with these guys? This was the fifth one to hit on her since she’d arrived at the airport lounge. Only this man in the white button-down shirt and slacks was by far the best looking. Gorgeous, actually. A Hollywood casting director’s dream client. He had a full head of short, wavy black hair, hazel eyes rimmed with brown flecks, and a smile as blinding as a solar eclipse. Over six feet of lean, muscular man and not a gold tooth in sight. Certainly a step up from the popular east-coast rapper who’d swaggered over earlier. “Look, I’m sure you’re a nice guy but I’m not interested. I don’t want to get to know you better or hook up the next time I’m in town either. I just want to be left alone. Got it?”
“We’ll have lunch together, and then I’ll be on my way.”
“I’m not hungry.” As the lie fell off her lips, her stomach erupted in protest, howling louder than a band of coyotes. If she didn’t eat soon lounge security would be peeling her up off the floor, and the last thing Claudia wanted was more public humiliation. She was starving, but she didn’t want to break bread with this immaculately groomed pretty boy with the polished shoes. “I don’t have much of an appetite.”
Another howl, but this one was accompanied by a sharp, hunger pang.
“You’re not going to let a nice guy like me eat all alone are you?”
Coughing to disguise the rumblings in her belly, she opened her wallet and fished out a ten-dollar bill. “Fine, but I won’t take the food unless you let me pay for it. Will this cover it?”
“Ms, please put away your money. Buying you lunch is my pleasure.”
Before Claudia knew what was happening, he sat down and rested the plastic bag on the table between them. A savoury aroma filled the air. Growing hungrier with each passing second, she licked the dryness from her lips and accepted the container he offered.
“How long have you been waiting?” he asked, settling comfortably into his chair.
“When I flew in this morning the skies were clear and blue, but now the rain is giving the city a beating.” He stared up at the ceiling as if it would cave in at any second. “I hope the weather advisory lifts soon. This is a very posh lounge, but I don’t want to be sleep here!”
He chuckled, but Claudia didn’t join in his laughter. She concentrated on eating her minestrone soup. Spooning baby carrots into her mouth, she pretended not to notice him watching her. His eyes were laser beams, piercing her flesh and heightening her fear. Something about him was gnawing at her. It was…his cologne. “Are you wearing Circa 1840?”
His eyebrows fused together. “Yes, in fact I am. You don’t like it, do you?”
“It doesn’t matter whether I like it or not, but don’t you think spending a thousand dollars on a bottle of cologne is a bit much?”
“I do, but my mother doesn’t!” A smile pinched his cheeks, and a set of dimples emerged. “She gave it to me for my birthday, but I had no idea it cost so much. Wow, you really know your colognes.”
“My ex wore it for years. It’s a nice fragrance, but I think it’s way too expensive.”
“Do you think there’s something wrong with people enjoying the fruits of their wealth?”
“No, if it’s earned by honest means, but most millionaires made it rich by exploiting others.” Claudia paused, thought a moment and said, “The cost of one bottle of Circa 1840 could feed a hundred people in my city Thanksgiving dinner, and I think providing the basic necessities of life is far more important than smelling good.”
He didn’t respond, just nodded and leaned back in his seat.
“I’m sorry,” she said, with a small shrug of her shoulders. “I didn’t mean to lay a guilt trip on you. What you choose to do with your money is none of my business.”
“No harm done. We’re just talking.”
Still hungry, she reached into the bag and unwrapped one of the sandwiches. She took a bite and sighed in contentment. Claudia didn’t bother to hide her pleasure. Loaded with vegetables and barbeque sauce, the sandwich tasted even better than it looked.
“Now that we’re friends, I think it’s only fair that you tell me your name.”
To buy herself some time, she picked up the hot chocolate and tasted it. This Santiago guy isn’t half bad, she thought, as the warm, creamy liquid warmed her chilled body. He was generous, courteous and seriously cute. Back in the day Claudia would have given him her number, but now she knew better. Knew that no matter how nice a guy was he was still just a man. Someone capable of breaking her heart, ruining her reputation and—
“I’m still waiting for that name…”
He tilted his head, studied her intently. “A lovely name for an obviously lovely lady.”