CHARMED BY YOU (Sept. 24, 2020)
Two million viewers watched thirty-year-old, audio engineer, Darius Matthews, get rejected on the hit reality TV show, The Groom. But spending Memorial Day weekend with Sloane Wesley at a swank, five-star resort pulls him out of his funk—and arouses his desire.
One passionate night with Darius Matthews was everything Sloane Wesley thought it would be. After dealing with her unreasonable boss, a heavy work load, and dumping her philandering boyfriend, Darius was just what her heart ordered.
Yet, Darius is keeping his distance and if Sloane were a betting woman, she’d guess her father being his boss has something to do with it. With feelings too strong to ignore, Darius must decide whether to bare his soul and risk everything for the woman of his dreams, or guard his heart and lose her forever.
“It’s been a long time,” Darius Matthews said, in a smooth voice. “How are you?”
Better now that you’re here, Sloane Wesley thought, staring into his deep brown eyes. There was no denying their chemistry, their mutual attraction, but Sloane maintained her composure. She was determined to keep her head around him. She’d spent an hour doing her makeup and styling her hair, and hoped her auburn, shoulder-length curls still looked magazine worthy. At five-six, Sloane was used to men towering over her, but Darius had such a warm, laid-back presence she instantly felt comfortable with him, not intimidated. Sloane liked admiring his lips and having him close, but Darius had just ended a serious relationship and Sloane didn’t want to be the rebound chick he hooked up with for the weekend. According to her male friends, she was a prize and Sloane refused to settle for a summer fling when she had marriage firmly in her sights. Her parents had been together for over forty years, but they still flirted like newlyweds and Sloane wanted to be with someone who’d build a life with her, not a guy who played the field. Finding a faithful, honest, gainfully employed man was harder than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in platform sandals, and Sloane had lost all hope in the opposite sex.
“I’m great, Darius. It’s good to see you again. How are things?”
“Never been better,” he said in a confident tone of voice. “I love Santa Barbara, and I’m looking forward to hanging out with you and the rest of the bridal party.”
“Just so you know, my colleagues and I think Annika was crazy for rejecting your marriage proposal. You’re an incredible guy and you deserve better.”
Darius nodded, then peered over her shoulder. “Where’s the real estate heir?”
“Who?” Sloane asked, playing dumb. Watching The Groom on Sunday nights used to be the highlight of her week, and being face-to-face with Darius was more than Sloane could handle. And when he touched her forearm, butterflies swarmed her stomach.
“Today during lunch your dad let it slip that he’s ready to welcome your new boyfriend to the Wesley family, so I assumed Mr. Right would be here with you this weekend.”
“We broke up. Why would Khan have one girlfriend when he could have three?” Sloane asked, her tone dripping with sarcasm. “In his eyes, more is more, so I dumped him, deleted his number from my cell, and tossed everything he ever gave me into the trash.”
“Sounds like you made a smart choice.”
Sloane reached out and patted his chest with her hand. “We both did.”
Like a bird of prey, Ariel swooped in, curled a hand through Darius’ arm, and pressed her mouth to his ear. She spoke to him in French, telling him about all of the dirty, salacious things she wanted to do to him inside her suite, and Darius coughed into his fist. Ariel did the most—she rubbed her breasts against his chest, flipped her curls over her shoulders, squeezed his biceps, and eyed his crotch—and Sloane wondered if her tactics were working on Darius.
Someone’s thirsty, Sloane thought, tearing her eyes away from the cozy twosome. Telling herself she didn’t care what they were doing, she marched up the aisle, furiously shaking her head. She couldn’t believe Darius had fallen for Ariel’s lies. The physician’s assistant was as cunning as a fox, cut from the same cloth as his ex-girlfriend, and Sloane hoped Darius came to his senses before Ariel blew his money on Rodeo Drive.
For the rest of the road trip, Sloane busied herself with taking pictures of the bridal party, sipping fruity cocktails, and finalizing the details for the bachelor-bachelorette party. Editing the photographs she’d taken, Sloane admired her favorite images, but kept a watchful eye on Darius and Ariel. Why is he laughing at her jokes? OMG, is he flirting with her? An hour ago, Sloane was dead set against having a weekend fling with Darius, but now it was all she could think about. She was comfortable with him, attracted to him, and needed someone to take her mind off work—and Darius was it. Making love to the dreamy audio engineer would not only alleviate her stress, it would give her an emotional boost. Her confidence had taken a hit when she discovered her ex-boyfriend was dating other women, and Sloane needed to know that other men found her desirable. And by the time the party bus pulled up to the front entrance of the Santa Barbara Couples Resort & Spa, Sloane realized she was interested in Darius, too, and wanted him all to herself. And Sloane knew just what to do to make it happen.