In just a handful of days, Secret Words will be out! On July 15, you can enjoy the first book in the new series Secret Dreams. It's hot, sexy and yes, sweet :-).
But before that, here's the first chapter. Enjoy!
“No, no, no!” Jasmine Allen cried softly as she stared at the bold handwritten ‘Out of Order' sign stuck to the door of the ladies' bathroom. Hoping against hope that a prankster put up the notice, she twisted the knob. Locked. Damn it!
Had she known that the car trip to Sydney's Royal National Park would take more than two hours, courtesy of the broken-down truck that created a traffic jam on the main highway, she wouldn't have drunk all that lemon and ginger tea for her sore throat before they left her sister's home.
She squinted at the map someone pinned to the door showing the directions to the nearest available ladies' room. It indicated it was about a five-minute walk away. But with her bladder close to bursting, she didn't have five minutes.
Well, there's the men's room, she thought desperately.
She walked around the small red brick building that stood amongst gum trees and chirping birds, hidden from the view of the picnic area where her sister Jessa, her fiancé Rob, and their friends were gathered for Rob's birthday.
She tried to listen for sounds from inside the men's restroom but couldn't hear anything. With fingers crossed that no one was inside, she cautiously placed her hand on the door to push it.
She let out a short yelp as the door was yanked open from the inside. Her eyes opened wide as they landed on a dark-haired man whose blue eyes stared back at her in horrified surprise.
Jasmine's mind went blank, forgetting for a moment why she was there. There was no other way to describe the man in front of her. He was a total hunk. She gaped at him for a long second, until her body reminded her she needed to go. Now.
“I think the ladies' room is around the corner to your right,” Mr. Hunk said, seemingly recovered from his shock.
“It's out of order,” she squeaked as she shoved him out of the way and ran for one of the cubicles.
Relief flooded her as she let go, followed by a sense of acute embarrassment. Did she just rudely push someone so she could go to the toilet? In the men's room? She felt her face burn. The fact that the guy she jostled was mega-hot and attractive didn't help her dignity and sense of femininity.
She finished her business and crept out of the cubicle, relieved that no one came in while she was there and disappointed that Mr. Hunk was gone. Well, what was she expecting? That he'd wait around for her?
She thought of blue eyes that belonged to a handsome face as she washed her hands. Maybe he was here on a picnic, too. If he used this particular bathroom, he must be hanging around close to her group's spot. Didn't her sister say they chose this part of the park because it was a lot quieter? A smile formed on her face at the possibility of bumping into him again.
The sound of male voices coming from outside prodded her to hurry up and leave the room she wasn't supposed to be in. She hastily turned towards the door, eager to get out, when she felt her left foot slip from underneath her.
“Oww!” She landed on her butt awkwardly, her arms thankfully managing to stop her upper body and head from hitting the floor.
Gingerly, she braced herself up and tried to stand. Pain shot up from her ankle and her face contorted in an ugly wince just as the door flung open. To her delight and chagrin, there he was again. Mr. Hunk. How freaking embarrassing!
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Uh, I think so. I didn't notice the puddle.”
“Here, let me help you up.” Her knight in sexy blue jeans leaned down to give her a hand.
She smiled her thanks as she accepted his assistance.
“Ahem,” a voice intruded, causing her to look away from Mr. Hunk's handsome face to find a middle-aged man poking his head inside the restroom.
“Excuse me. May I go in now?” the man asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Hunk answered. “Thanks for waiting.”
She gave her new friend a quizzical look.
“I told him not to go in until you came out,” he explained.
“You were guarding the door for me?” she asked in disbelief.
“Yeah. I thought you might need a little privacy while you invaded the men's room,” he said with a teasing grin.
“Thanks. That's very kind of you.”
“No worries. There's not many people around in this part of the park and a pretty girl like you shouldn't be found in the men's room. It always pays to be careful,” he said quietly, then turned his head towards the cubicles. “Not that I think you're dangerous, sir,” he called out loudly to the older man.
“I understand,” the other guy responded.
“Aahh,” she cried softly as she put weight on her left foot.
“Your ankle?” her knight asked.
“Yes, I must have sprained it.” Her eyes watered from the pain and the predicament she found herself in. She prayed her ankle wasn't too bad. Her sister's wedding was next week and she didn't want to be a limping bridesmaid on the day.
“Where do you need to go?” he asked.
“To the sink first. I need to wash my hands again.”
Her heart raced as a muscular arm went around her waist as he helped her hobble to the washbasin.
“Why don't I help you walk back to wherever you need to be?” he offered. “You probably shouldn't be putting much weight on that foot.”
“How do I know you're not dangerous?” she asked with a smile that conveyed she was joking. She felt safe with him already. But was that being too naive?
He laughed out loud. “How about I introduce myself first? My name's Kane and I work for Krand Architects. I'm definitely not an axe murderer.”
“Where's your proof?” she asked with a mock frown.
He took his wallet from his back pocket and fished out a business card. “Here. See? Ar-chi-tect,” he said with exaggerated enunciation as he pointed to the title ‘Director and Head Architect'.
She chuckled at his playfulness and snatched the card from him. “Glad to meet you, Kane … Summers? Are you related to Faye Summers?”
“Yes,” Kane replied in surprise. “I'm her oldest brother.”
Oh. She checked him out with new eyes. She could now see the resemblance between him and Faye – one of her sister's best friends – especially their blue eyes and the fact that they were both extremely good-looking.
“And you are …?” Kane prodded.
“Oh, I'm Jasmine Allen.”
He lifted his eyebrows. “You're Jessa's younger sister?”
He grinned at her. “Well, then, now you know for sure I'm not an axe murderer. You live in Melbourne, right? When did you arrive?”
“Yesterday. I'm here for five weeks.”
“Wow, that's a good length of time to be away from work. What do you do?”
“I'm a corporate trainer. My boss wants me to consider moving here to Sydney to fill a position that will be vacant in three months. Since I have plenty of annual leave up my sleeve, I thought I'd take it now so I could see if I'd like living in Sydney while I house-sit for Jessa and Rob when they go on their honeymoon. Plus, I also wanted to come early for Rob's birthday. Speaking of which, we should head back to the party.”
As Kane escorted her out of the men's room, she tried to hide the wince that formed on her face. She was in more pain than she would like to admit.
“Do you think I should carry you?” Kane asked tentatively.
“Ah, no. I think that would be too awkward,” she replied, her cheeks turning pink. The thought of being in his arms heated her up all over and made her heart pound hard. This guy was doing crazy things to her system.
“Okay,” Kane said. “But you shouldn't use your left foot at all until you've had it checked by a doctor. Hang on to me and I'll help you hop along with your right foot.”
“Thanks.” She put her right arm around his shoulders as he kept a tight grip around her waist and held her against his side.
Whoa, this position won't help me cool down. Not at all.
“I hope I can walk all right by next week,” she babbled, keen to distract herself from her ridiculous physical reaction to this man. “I wouldn't want to ruin Jessa and Rob's big day by being on crutches during their wedding.”
“I'm sure you'll be fine as long as you don't do silly things while your ankle's healing,” he consoled her.
Yes, just continue to hold me and I'll be fine.
She decided not to respond in case something totally inappropriate came out of her mouth.
Jasmine exhaled her disappointment when they neared the place where the rest of their group was busy barbecuing, chatting and laughing. Kane Summers would have to let go of her soon.
She couldn't understand it. Why this intense attraction? He might be one hell of a looker, but he was just one of the many handsome guys she knew. What made him the most magnetic of them all?
“Nearly there,” Kane said.
She wanted to swoon at the husky tone of his voice. Instead, she forced herself to focus on keeping her left foot raised while she hopped with her right.
“Jaz! What happened?” She looked up to see Jessa's worried face.
“I slipped and sprained my ankle,” she answered.
“Oh, no! Are you okay? Where did you slip? In the bathroom?”
“Yes,” she responded in a small voice.
Their group gathered around them, wanting to see what was wrong.
“It's just a sprained ankle, guys. Please don't worry,” Jasmine pleaded.
“Maybe we should take you to a doctor,” Rob said.
“Rob, seriously, I'm fine. I'll just put my foot up and relax. Please carry on with your party. You'll only make me feel bad if you fuss over me.”
“Yes. Please.” She looked around with embarrassment as about fifteen pairs of eyes stared at her. She didn't even know who a few of the others were. She had run straight for the bathroom as soon as they got there.
Fortunately, Jessa remembered to make the introductions before shooing her friends back to what they were doing. “It's all right, guys. We got this,” Jessa said.
Kane led her to the nearest bench and helped her sit down. He squatted before her, gently picked up her left foot and took off her shoe. He lightly caressed her swollen ankle and oddly enough, his touch made it feel a little better.
“Do you girls know how to treat a sprained ankle?” he asked Jessa and Faye, who stood on either side of him.
“You need to put ice on it and bandage it up,” his sister responded. “But I don't think we have bandage.”
“We have ice!” Jessa went to the portable drink cooler and gathered ice cubes. When she walked back to them, Kane held out his hand for the cubes, wrapped in a tea towel.
“You want to do this?” Jessa asked in surprise.
“Sure. I'm already holding her foot,” Kane responded, taking the makeshift ice pack from Jessa.
Jasmine flushed at the meaningful look exchanged by Jessa and Faye. She wondered what they were thinking. Would they have a problem if she and Kane dated?
Whoa, Jasmine, slow down. You're getting ahead of yourself here.
At twenty-seven, she had dated plenty of guys. But even though her family thought she fell in and out of love too often, the truth was she hadn't fallen in love with a single one of her past boyfriends. She didn't see the point in extending the relationship when she was sure it had nowhere to go.
With her sister's upcoming nuptials, her desire to find that special someone had become stronger. But finding that one guy might have become harder due to her fear of exposing her little secret – a secret only two other people in the world knew about. She hadn't even told Jessa, although there were times she had wanted to open up to her only sibling. But she still wasn't prepared for the repercussions.
She had a mental picture of people – of Kane – finding out about her secret activity and shivered at the thought.
“Too cold?” Kane asked, his concerned look quickly warming her up.
She shook her head and smiled at him.
“So did you two meet outside the bathrooms?” Faye asked.
“I heard Jasmine yell so I went back in and found her on her bottom. Then we introduced ourselves to each other,” Kane answered, his eyes still fully on her flushed face.
Kane grinned while her face reddened even more. He raised an eyebrow at her. She shrugged and gave a resigned chuckle.
“Jasmine slipped in the men's room,” Kane stated.
“What?” Faye and Jessa exclaimed.
“The nearest ladies' room was out of order and I was desperate to go,” Jasmine explained. “So I used the men's. I slipped as I was about to come out and Kane heard me. He was waiting outside to make sure no one else went in while I was in there.”
“That's so sweet of you, Kane,” Jessa said. “Thank you.”
“Aww, it was nothing. I'm just glad I was there or one of your bridesmaids might not be able to walk down the aisle on your wedding.”
“If Jaz is still in pain next week then she doesn't have to walk. Things don't always work out as planned,” Jessa said pragmatically.
“Don't say that, Jess! I want to be fine for your wedding,” Jasmine insisted.
“Well, then, you have to make sure you rest your ankle until it's recovered. It doesn't look too bad but we'll stop by a medical centre on our way back home.”
“If you're going to sit around for the rest of the afternoon, you better sit on a picnic blanket so you can keep your ankle raised,” Kane suggested.
“Good idea,” Jessa agreed. “You can lie down and read a book or something so you won't get too bored while the rest of us play games. But I'll sit and chat with you most of the time.”
“Don't be silly, Jess. I'll be fine reading. You guys should be enjoying yourselves with Rob and not worrying about me. It's his birthday, and all I have is a sprained ankle.”
“Okay. We better help you move to the blanket, then.”
“I'll carry her,” Kane said. With easy movements, he scooped her up in his muscular arms and sauntered towards one of the picnic blankets under the shade of a tree.
Good heavens, this man is literally sweeping me off my feet.
Kane's heart thundered in his chest and his body hardened. There it was again, that delicious reaction to Jasmine. He'd known her for less than twenty minutes and he already craved being close to her. What was this called? Instant chemistry?
He pressed her closer to him, wanting to bury his face in her long black hair that smelled like some exotic flower.
He was glad he had stayed behind and waited for her while she used the bathroom. He'd always been a sucker for damsels in distress, especially when the damsel was as beautiful and attractive as the one in his arms.
He gently laid her down the blanket and immediately felt bereft when he released her.
“All right?” he asked.
Jasmine nodded, her eyes locking with his with a look of wonder that seemed to reflect what he was feeling. Did she feel it too? That irresistible pull between them? She looked so mesmerising and vulnerable sitting there that he had a great urge to kiss her.
“Here, put your foot up on this, Jaz,” Jessa said, placing a rolled-up jacket underneath Jasmine's left calf and breaking the spell that encapsulated them.
“Stop fussing. I'll be fine,” Jasmine told her sister. “All I need now is my handbag so I can read from my phone, then you can look after your birthday boy. He looks lonely without you over there.”
“Which one is your bag?” Kane asked, wanting to continue to do something for her.
“Uh, that red one next to the white one,” Jasmine replied, pointing her finger at the location of her purse.
He went to retrieve it for her. On his way back, he noticed the curious looks Faye and Jessa were throwing at him. You're being too obvious, he berated himself.
If things were different, he wouldn't have cared if anyone thought he was interested in Jasmine. But he was in a messy, difficult situation with Hannah and he needed to fix things with her before he could move on. Faye knew that and, knowing how close his sister was to her best friends, he was certain Jessa knew that, too. He would be frowned upon if he pursued Jasmine at this time, and he couldn't blame them if they did.
He smiled at Jasmine as he handed her her purse then went to join the boys by the barbecue table. Right now, it was all too complicated. So he knew what he had to do. Stay away from Jasmine.